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Trial begins in Rhode Island lead paint lawsuit

[JURIST] The trial of four former makers of lead paint and pigment, Millennium Holdings, Sherwin-Williams, Atlantic Richfield , and NL Industries [corporate websites], began in Rhode Island Tuesday. State lawyers have alleged that the four companies are responsible for a paint product that contaminated hundreds of thousands of homes and caused 35,000 children to suffer from lead poisoning. This is the second attempt to hold makers of lead paint liable. In 1999, Rhode Island was the first state to sue the paint industry [backgrounder] but the trial ended in a hung jury three years later. Lead paint was banned nationwide in 1978 after studies showed that flaking paint chips or paint dust can cause brain damage, behavioral disorders and death in children. In opening statements Tuesday, Rhode Island asserted that the companies made lead-based pigment and paint despite knowing that the product posed a health risk to children. Atlantic Richfield's lawyer countered that the paint makers acted "responsibly and consistently with the medical knowledge that existed at the time." If Rhode Island is successful, the trial might pave the way for further lawsuits against former lead paint manufacturers. AP has more. The Providence Journal has local coverage [registration required].

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