Attorney General Lockyer Announces Agreement to Require Lead Warnings on Paint Products

Consumers Will Be Informed About Renovation, Repainting Hazards

Monday, May 12, 2003
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced a multi-state agreement with paint manufacturers that requires labels on paint cans to warn consumers about the danger of lead exposure when renovating or repainting homes.

"We have made great progress in reducing lead pollution, but lead poisoning remains a top environmental hazard for children,' said Lockyer. 'Protecting the health and safety of our kids must continue to be our top priority. This agreement helps achieve that goal by strengthening our efforts to reduce lead exposure.'

The agreement was reached between member-companies of the National Paint and Coatings Association (NPCA), and 45 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. Major manufacturers in the NPCA include SherwinWilliams, Glidden, Benjamin Moore, Thompson Miniwax, Rust-Oleum, Valspar and Truserve. The agreement followed months of negotiations, which were led on the government side by California and six other states.

Lead-based paint was banned in 1978. But older housing still has lead-based interior and exterior paint. An October 2002 study found that 38 million housing units nationwide had lead-based paint. Of those units, 24 million had significant lead-based paint hazards, including deteriorated paint, and contaminated dust and soil. Of the units with significant lead-based hazards, 21.6 million were single-family homes.

Studies have shown that up to 30 percent of lead poisoning results from exposure during home renovation by contractors or homeowners. The agreement seeks to reduce this significant source of lead poisoning. In children, lead poisoning can cause brain damage, kidney damage, impaired growth, hearing loss and other health problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates lead poisoning affects 1.7 million children under the age of five.

The agreement requires labels on non-aerosol paint cans heavier than 16 ounces and aerosol containers heavier than 24 ounces to contain a 'lead exposure surface preparation warning.' The warning must be 'clear and conspicuous (and) in close proximity to any surface preparation instructions,' the agreement states, and must include the word 'warning.'

Additionally, the language must alert consumers to the health hazards associated with lead exposure, and mention the at-risk population includes children and pregnant women. The warning also must outline steps to protect against exposure and direct consumers to critical sources of information about lead contamination.

The agreement includes a suggested warning that meets the criteria, and requires the NPCA to promote its use. The suggested warning states:

Warning! If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log on to

For paint products that do not currently contain a surface preparation warning, the new label requirements will apply to all aerosol containers heavier than 24 ounces and all non-aerosol containers heavier than 16 ounces manufactured after December 31, 2003. For such containers that currently have a warning, the agreement applies to all products manufactured after December 31, 2004.

In addition to the new warnings, aerosol containers heavier than 24 ounces and non-aerosol containers heavier than 16 ounces that are manufactured between September 30, 2003 and April 30, 2005 must bear a sticker on the top of the container. The sticker must state, 'WARNING! If you scrape, sand or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. Contact the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log on to '

Aerosol and non-aerosol containers lighter than 24 ounces and 16 ounces, respectively, can use either the larger warning or the abbreviated sticker language to satisfy the agreement's requirements.

The agreement also includes important provisions requiring the NPCA and manufacturers to conduct education and training programs for homeowners, landlords and contractors. For example, from September 30, 2003, through December 31, 2007, manufacturers and retailers must provide consumers point-of-sale written information about lead exposure. During the same period, the NPCA must promote and conduct training courses on lead-based paint hazards for homeowners, contractors and others.

"As a new study published last month confirmed, there is no safe level of lead exposure for children,' said Lockyer. 'About 300,000 children nationwide, and 40,000 children in California, have blood lead levels above the threshold set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine when treatment is needed. Those numbers are down significantly from 1978. But even one lead-poisoned child is one child too many. This agreement aims to help us meet our target of zero.'

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PDF icon 03-055.pdf92.41 KB
PDF icon 03-055.pdf92.41 KB