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A mistrial was declared in Rhode Island’s landmark lawsuit against makers of lead paint Tuesday after the jury reported it was hopelessly deadlocked in the potentially multimillion-dollar case. The state was trying to hold eight former manufacturers of lead paint liable for lead poisoning in 35,000 Rhode Island children since 1993. If the jury in this first phase had found that the lead paint manufacturers had caused a public nuisance, the case would have moved into two more phases to decide whether the industry is liable and how much it should pay in damages. The six-person jury was deadlocked after four days of deliberations and seven weeks of trial. More than 40 lawsuits have been filed since 1989 by individuals and communities against lead paint companies. All have failed. Rhode Island is the first state to sue the industry under public nuisance law. Lead paint was banned in 1978 after studies showed flaking paint or dust can harm children who eat or breathe it. Health problems include behavioral disorders, brain damage and even death. Lead paint remains in about 330,000 homes and public buildings in Rhode Island — about 80 percent of the state’s housing stock, according to the state. The paint companies said the problem is confined to deteriorating paint found in homes managed by delinquent landlords or irresponsible homeowners. Eight former lead paint manufacturers were sued: American Cyanamid Co.; Atlantic Richfield; ConAgra Grocery Products Co.; Cytec Industries Inc.; DuPont Co.; Millennium Inorganic Chemicals Inc.; NL Industries Inc. and Sherwin-Williams Co. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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