Most industrial countries banned lead in the paint in the early 1900s. The United States did not follow suit until the late 1970s.
As lead poisoning law suits started to become public knowledge, The Government and wealth landowners and landlords took steps to get the lead and asbestos out of their buildings.
When I got elected as a business agent for Painters Local #4 in San Francisco in 1994, there was a huge project in San Francisco’s financial district, to eliminate asbestos and lead from downtown San Francisco, wealthy residences, San Francisco Public Housing Projects and all government buildings.
The downtown buildings and principle government buildings did ‘lead Abatement’ which was to remove the lead from the buildings, for workers’ and minority’s rental housing they also did ‘lead abatement’. At a meeting of the Mayor’s Council on lead in housing, it was explained to me and several leaders of community groups, that in rental they would not require lead removal but rather ‘lead containment’ They explained that this was Lead Abatement with a small ‘a’. To which, Richard Brown, a former member of the Black Panther Party, stated that it’s like Murder with a small ‘m’! The reality of government’s lead regulations, was, once the ‘lead containment’ was done the tenants would be responsible to keep the ‘lead contained’ and that the landlord would not be held responsible for any lead poisoning.
The result of this policy left lead in the environment:
The following was printed in yesterday’s news digest: Reuters Exclusive: Lead poisoning afflicts neighborhoods across California: Dozens of California communities have experienced recent rates of childhood lead poisoning that surpass those of Flint, Michigan, with one Fresno locale showing rates nearly three times higher, blood testing data obtained by Reuters shows. The data shows how lead poisoning affects even a state known for its environmental advocacy, with high rates of childhood exposure found in a swath of the Bay Area and downtown Los Angeles. And the figures show that, despite national strides in eliminating lead-based products, hazards remain in areas far from the Rust Belt or East Coast regions filled with old housing and legacy industry. In one central Fresno zip code, 13.6 percent of blood tests on children under six years old came back high for lead. That compares to 5 percent across the city of Flint during its recent water contamination crisis. In all, Reuters found at least 29 Golden State neighborhoods where children had elevated lead tests at rates at least as high as in Flint.