SAN JOSE, CA — Santa Clara County, CA, has joined the growing list of government jurisdictions taking former suppliers of lead pigments and lead-based paint to court, as the county filed suit seeking unspecified amounts to pay for the cost to remove lead-based paint from buildings. The suit also seeks funds for education about the risks of lead, and to treat children affected by lead poisoning.

The lawsuit is the first such action taken by a county, although several cities have filed similar suits. The county’s legal counsel, however, said she expected other counties and cities in California to join the suit.

According to news reports, the county currently spends about $400,000 a year to identify and advise families affected by lead poisoning. The reports said officials believe nearly 6,000 children in the county suffer from such poisoning.

An attorney for The Sherwin-Williams Co., one of the defendants named in the suit, was quoted as saying paint and pigment manufacturers were being unfairly targeted by lawyers seeking to duplicate recent financial settlements obtained from tobacco companies. “They’re looking for the next target after tobacco and guns,” the attorney, Chuck Moellenberg, told the San Jose Mercury News. “But if they think lead pigment is like tobacco and guns, they’re sorely mistaken.”

Industry representatives have pointed out that the manufacture of lead-based paint was largely discontinued more than 50 years ago, long before any government regulations prohibited their use.

Besides Sherwin-Williams, the suit names the Atlantic Richfield Co., American Cyanamid Inc., DuPont Co., The O’Brien Corp., The Glidden Co., NL Industries Inc., SCM Chemicals, and the Lead Industries Association.