HOUSTON — Two Houston area school districts are the latest parties to file suit against former lead-paint and pigment manufacturers in a bid to seek financial awards to pay for the cost of lead-paint removal.

The Houston and Spring Branch, TX, school districts filed suit against a group of companies that previously manufactured lead paint or lead pigments, including DuPont Co., The Glidden Co., The Sherwin-Williams Co., Atlantic Richfield Co., and the Lead Industries Association, a trade group. The suits are reported to be the first such actions taken by schools. Similar lawsuits have been filed by the city of St. Louis, the state of Rhode Island, and Santa Clara County, CA.

A spokesman for several of the companies named as defendants said the use of lead in architectural paint was discontinued nearly 50 years ago. The companies should not be held responsible for lead paint that was applied long before it was known to pose health hazards, said the spokesman, Alan Wheat.