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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of Texas Medical Branch

Communities Organized Against Asthma & Lead (COAL)

Jonathan B. Ward Jr.

Project Description:

Communities Organized Against Asthma and Lead: Project COAL (Communidades organizadas contra asthma y plomo) is a partnership among De Madres a Madres, Inc. in Houston, TX, The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Casa de Amigos Health Center, and the Environmental Justice Clinic at Texas Southern University School of Law. The partnership brings together a well-established and respected community based organization in the Near North Side community of Houston, with Environmental Toxicologists in the NIEHS Center at UTMB, health care providers at the Harris County Hospital District Clinic serving the Near North Side, and attorneys and law students with a history of response to environmental health problems in disadvantaged communities. This partnership addresses two pressing environmental problems in the homes of this community: exposure of children to lead, from paint, and to agents that can trigger asthma. We address these issues first through a novel approach to communication using theater as a means to educate and to elicit responses from the community. This approach informs the community about Project COAL and provides local knowledge from the community to the partners in this project. The second focus of the project is to serve the needs of residents in the community by making assessments of their homes to identify sources of lead and agents that can trigger asthma. Paint samples are being tested for lead. Levels of allergens (dust mites, mold spores, pollen) in the air are being determined, irritant chemicals and allergens from insects and rodents are being measured. UTMB is training local resident home assessment teams and performing the laboratory tests. Residents are given training to enable them to reduce or eliminate these hazards from their homes and they receive consistent follow-up from the home assessment teams. The medical clinic and environmental justice clinic serve in an advisory capacity and provide data about the community, and assist in specific situations when the need arises. The primary purpose of Project COAL is to give De Madres a Madres the means to provide services to reduce the exposure of children in their community to agents that can result in lead exposure and asthma exacerbation.


  • Sylvia Castillo
    Demadres a Madres
  • Rosemary Lopez
    Casa de Amigos Health Center
    Harris County District

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