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An Open Letter to Sherwin Williams

Sherwin Williams Sign

Photo Taken By Tamara Rubin 4/22/2015,

Dear Sherwin Williams,


As you know, today is #EarthDay2015.

All day today, in social media, my friends across the globe have been sharing pictures of the planet—both artistic renderings of the whole planet, as well as photos from space and other photos of earth’s bounty and benefits. In looking at these photos and thinking about my work as a lead-poisoning prevention advocate (work I started after my own children were lead poisoned in 2005) I tried to think of an image of the earth that I could share that would be emblematic or representative of my cause and my advocacy work, preventing childhood lead poisoning—a problem that has become so pervasive and yet still so relatively ignored in today’s day and age.

I thought and thought and thought…and then your logo again came to my mind.

Your logo symbolizes so much – it evokes thoughts about the past, specifically about the impact of the industrial revolution on our planet. It also evokes concerns for our future – it makes one think of how toxicity has covered this planet in a way that will be hard to address and fix for future generations.

I write to you now not in the spirit of blame (despite the fact of your company’s historical role in lead paint’s horrible legacy; the past cannot be changed) but to reach out a hand (in the spirit of #Earthday) for a potential collaboration to benefit the future of our planet…

Logo on Delivery Truck

A photo my husband, Len took today. Logo on a Truck.

Sherwin Williams HAS “covered the earth” (I see your stores literally EVERYWHERE I go!) Your impact is far-reaching, profound and in many, many ways, long-lasting.

Have you considered if it would be possible for you to use your powerful presence and global reach to our entire planet to “cover the earth” in a new way?

I understand you have taken on a role as a leader in the EPA RRP training of contractors—offering discounted training and lead-safe work practices certification to contractors through your stores. Through this action you are demonstrating your concern for future generations on this planet, concern to clean up the hazards created by the industry you have played a pivotal role in building over the course of the last century. You have demonstrated a concern to help prevent the permanent brain damage that my child suffers as a result of being lead poisoned.

While I know we (Lead Safe America and Sherwin Williams) didn’t start out as fast friends in the past [in 2012, as we were engaged in the creation of our documentary film, MisLEAD: America’s Secret Epidemic to raise awareness of the persistence of the public health crisis of childhood lead poisoning in this country, your executives took the time to communicate their concerns about our activities and intentions to several of our film’s major sponsors], I think the opportunity to collaborate to “cover the earth” with the message of lead poisoning prevention combined with the tools and resources [tools you sell: paint, brushes, tape, tarps, etc.] for families to repaint their homes safely is an appealing one—that could truly be a win/win for everyone.

Together we could inspire every family in this country living in a house built before the 1978 ban on lead-based paint to repaint their home—safely and responsibly, first getting a professional hazard inspection to identify any lead-based paint on their homes, and then hiring EPA RRP-certified contractors trained in lead-safe work practices to properly remediate those hazards.

A collaboration could even inspire politicians to join the bandwagon in supporting a sorely needed increase in public funding to help families across the country address the issue.

So how about burying the hatchet and considering a partnership with the Lead Safe America Foundation?

Unlikely bedfellows I know, but seriously, together we could change the world.

In light of the landmark litigation underway in California, consider the value of the signal you could send by getting out in front of the rising negative public sentiment over the immense environmental and human toll from the manufacture and promotion of lead-based paint during the American Century.  Also consider the potential positive impact of taking an authentic, publicly visible leadership role in restoring the health and integrity of millions of America’s historic homes—and in doing so, safeguarding the health and preserving the full potential of countless future generations of American children.

In the Jewish faith, this is called Tikkun Olam—according to Wikipedia, “an ancient Hebrew phrase, meaning ‘repairing the world’, which suggests humanity’s shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world.”

Perfect sentiment for this day, wouldn’t you agree?

Thanks for reading.

Tamara Rubin
Mother of Lead Poisoned Children
Executive Director, Lead Safe America Foundation

To share this letter from our website click HERE

P.S. While I wasn’t sure if this piece would be well received I have received more comments than with any other thing I have ever written…. and I wanted to share them with you.  I will post each below as a separate comment.  Feel free to add your own comment too!

23 Responses to An Open Letter to Sherwin Williams

  1. Tamara April 22, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    Every time I’ve passed that logo I’ve cringed and thought, “really??? “. Good luck. They were once forbidden to discuss lead issues with me and refused to advertise our renovator classes. I believe it was when they were being sued in New England.

    From L.

  2. Tamara April 22, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    Great letter, Tamara!

    Happy Earth Day,


  3. Tamara April 22, 2015 at 10:43 pm #


    From R.

  4. Tamara April 22, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

    “I do not support your liberal views or share your views on this letter to Sherwin Williams. thoughts like these and the growing EPA regulations are destroying America

    please remove me from your mailing list.”

    From D.

  5. Tamara April 22, 2015 at 10:45 pm #

    “Hello Tamara This is Jesus Sustaita I am a HUD Compliance Inspector, CDPH Lead paint Inspector/Assessor and am willing to give to your foundation 15% of proceeds from any Inspection from Sherwin Williams collaboration.
    I am located in Fresno CA and cover the central valley JSAinspections 559-273-3256”

  6. Tamara April 22, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    “Great letter, Tamara! I will be anxious to hear Sherwin Williams’ response… If any.”

    From J.

  7. Tamara April 22, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    “​freakin’ brilliant”

    From M.

  8. Tamara April 22, 2015 at 10:47 pm #


    Sherwin Williams, and all the other major players in the last 75 years have manufactured lead paint for decades. However, Sherwin Williams has taken the lead to develop zero VOC paints (and of course lead free) that really work. As an Architect here in California I find that the best way to comply with CalGREEN requirements is to spec Sherwin Williams paints. They are at the forefront of paint technology…as far as ultra high quality products that meet the most stringent environmental specs.( their Emerald Line of Paints) I might sound like a paid Sherwin Williams fanboy, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. Give them some credit in your open letter…. !”

    From R.

  9. Tamara April 22, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    “Congratulations to you. A well written letter!!”

    From H.

  10. Tamara April 22, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    “This is stupid….stop looking for problems that aren’t there..”

    From C. in California

  11. Catherine Brooks April 23, 2015 at 5:53 am #

    Great thought was put into this concept of collaboration with a HUGE adversary. Kudos to you for giving specific actions Sherwin-Williiams can take to demonstrate their change in ethics.

  12. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 7:34 am #

    “Get a life.”

    From George (a contractor)

  13. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 7:35 am #

    “Please remove me from your email list.

    You are so off base on your accusations etc… This is not helpful to your cause


    from Pennsylvania

  14. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 7:36 am #

    “Good Morning Tamara,

    I am on my way to a Home Visit, but I just wanted to make sure I sent an “Atta Girl” to you. Your letter to SW is right on target. I hope you get a positive response, or at least not hostile.”

    From Ramona

  15. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 7:36 am #

    “Wonderful letter.”


  16. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 7:37 am #

    “Hi Tamara,
    That was an incredible letter. Hope they decide to help the healing process.”

    From Jodi

  17. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 7:38 am #

    “Liberal BS. This is ridiculous ! Please remove me from your email list.”

    From Vic

  18. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 7:38 am #

    “You have too much time on your hands…..fighting a cartoon, REALLY???”

    From Alexander

  19. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 9:13 am #

    “What a great letter!”

    From Denise

  20. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 9:13 am #

    “Such a great letter!”

    From Lindsay

  21. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    “Unsubscribe me”

    From Roger

  22. Tamara April 23, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    “Pushing for someone to change their logo…..stop…it’s too much..”

    From C. in California

  23. AZ April 23, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    Great letter, Tamara. Unfortunately it’s not the corporate model to admit blame or to repair anything. Neither of those things make money, and that is all the corporate model cares about. Their silence is not surprising.

    As an aside, I find it odd that some old men out there think that the prevention of brain damage is “liberal”…conservatives….like brain damage? really? And I don’t think you have ever suggested that the company change their logo! Maybe it is a reading comprehension issue (as a result of lead poisoning from unsafe work practices, perhaps?)

    As I understand it, your requests are that SW:
    1. Use their marketing reach to educate vast numbers of people about lead poisoning prevention;
    2. Use their marketing reach to encourage families living in pre-1978 era homes to safely remediate the lead paint on their homes;
    3. Market lead remediation tools in their stores;
    4. Encourage politicians to increase funding for lead remediation grants for residential homes;

    Keep up the good fight (as I know you will)!

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