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DuPont Leads in Lead Whitewashing at Mayors’ Conference

Dupont, one of the top polluting companies in the US, awarded $500,000 today to four cities to create “healthier and safer cities by educating communities about the importance of lead-safe practices.” The “Lead Safe … for Kids’ Sake” grant program is part of a partnership between DuPont and the US Conference of Mayors. The grants attempt to whitewash DuPont’s decades of production of lead-based products and to undermine efforts to hold DuPont accountable for profiting from a product they knew to be unsafe.
DuPont awarded $500,000 to four US cities, recognizing their “excellence in implementing effective solutions to make their neighborhoods lead-safe.” DuPont senior vice president and general counsel Stacey Mobley presented the awards during the “Strong Families, Strong Cities” opening plenary session of the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) annual meeting in Madison, WI. Awards went to Baltimore, Indianapolis, Trenton, and Chicago. Seventy-eight cities applied for the grants.

The “Lead Safe … for Kids’ Sake” grant program is part of a recent “partnership” between DuPont and USCM called United Cities for Science Progress (CUSP). Despite DuPont’s record as one of the worst polluters in the US, CUSP’s mission is “to assist mayors in creating healthier, safer, more innovative and economically vibrant cities through science-based solutions.”

Following a corporate-promoted trend towards public-private “partnerships,” CUSP’s high ideals serve as a whitewash for DuPont’s decades of profiting from bad corporate behavior. According to the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, DuPont is “one of several makers of lead paint that is now being sued by 45 states, cities, counties, school districts and housing authorities for manufacturing and marketing lead-based paint for decades despite their clear knowledge of the dangers.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that there are 25 million housing units posing “significant lead hazards.” CUSP’s “Lead Safe … for Kids’ Sake” program provides only a small fraction of the funds necessary for full prevention of childhood lead poisoning. At the same time, it rewards cities for “innovative and creative” solutions, which has become standard corporate speak for non-regulatory and non-litigious government action.

“Lead Safe … for Kids’ Sake” is part of DuPont’s larger public relations campaign aimed at undermining public interest organizations’ efforts to hold accountable the makers of lead-based paints. M&R Strategies, a PR firm who has DuPont as a client, circulated a request in January asking public interest and public health groups to sign on to a letter to President George W. Bush. The letter called on Bush to increase federal funding for HUD’s lead hazard control grants and promote outreach and education to families about “lead-safe practices.” The letter, however, did not reveal that DuPont employed M&R Strategies.

Advocacy groups called the recommendations of the M&R letter “incomplete and out of balance” and circulated their own letter that called for enforcement of existing HUD regulations on lead-safety and increased federal funding to HUD. But unlike the M&R letter, advocates called for preventative abatement of lead hazards and “full participation of the paint companies … commensurate to the scale of the problem it created.”

In a related move, USCM president and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino submitted a resolution to USCM called “A Proactive Approach to Childhood Lead Poisoning.” The weakly worded resolution again calls for increased federal funding of HUD’s lead hazard control grants, enforcement of existing childhood blood-level screening regulations, voluntary charitable education campaigns, and public-private partnerships “to implement best practices.” Echoing the M&R letter, the Mayor Menino’s resolution places the financial burden of lead poisoning prevention on taxpayers and leave the manufactures free to contribute as little or as much as they want towards making cities “lead safe.”



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