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Your Environment. Your Health.

The University of Texas at El Paso - College of Health Sciences

Community-Based Participatory Research in Environmental Health

Maria Amaya, Ph.D.

Project Description:

The objectives of the study are to: 


  1. estimate the geographic distribution of environmental lead in El Paso and Juarez; 
  2. estimate the prevalence of elevated blood lead levels in the two cities; 
  3. differentiate chronic and acute lead exposures in children with elevated lead levels; 
  4. fractionate lead by etiological source in children; and 
  5. involve end- users to evaluate a scientifically based, culturally relevant prevention/intervention strategy.



The study seeks to improve the capacity of the El Paso, Texas - Juarez, Mexico binational community to participate in research to identify the etiology of lead exposure among low-income Hispanic children. Project activities are increasing the community's capacity to deliver environmental health intervention, prevention, and educational services in a binational setting through collaborative partnerships between academic institutions, community organizations, and stakeholders. Based on original research, the study joins environmental health scientists and community organization members in an interdisciplinary investigative team. This project evaluates lead exposure and its adverse effect on the health of low-income Hispanic children on the U.S.-Mexico border. Research goals of the project include:


  • Estimating environmental lead distribution using data from indoor and outdoor sites. 
  • Testing nine hundred and thirteen blocks for outdoor lead levels in each city. 
  • Analyzing in each block 40 random samples of soil using a portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) lead analysis unit in public areas along streets, from playgrounds, schools, hospitals, etc. 
  • Testing indoor lead levels in water, soil, dust, and air are in 4 households in 10 randomly selected blocks. 
  • Administering an exposure assessment survey. 
  • Defining high- household's risk as those exceeding EPA maximum household contaminant levels.
  • Analyzing data to produce binational maps of environmental lead distribution. 
  • Selecting randomly two hundred households from high-risk blocks in each city (a total 400 households). 
  • Recruiting one hundred and ninety-two children, ages 6 months to 11 years, in each city. 
  • Analyzing blood lead levels using graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy. 
  • Testing children with elevated lead levels (>10 ug/dL) to determine whether the exposure is chronic using K X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy of the tibia. 
  • Evaluating the etiological source of lead in the blood by inductively coupled plasma - mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS).
  • Conducting regression analysis to model the relationships between blood and bone lead levels, environmental lead, and risk of exposure. 


Four community-based organizations (CBOs) are participating in the research process. A CBO liaison built and coordinates a community-based partnership for education and outreach and overall capacity building.


  • Vanessa Johnson
    Executive Director
    Femap Foundation (includes SADEC)
  • Gloria Melendez
    Executive Director
    Adults & Youth United Development Association (AYUDA)
  • Catalina Castillo
    Executive Director
    Organizacíon Popular Independiente (OPI)

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