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NIH Begins Oil Spill Health Study

by Britt E. Erickson
March 7, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 10

Credit: NOAA
Gulf oil spill cleanup workers replace oiled pompons with clean ones on a beach.
Credit: NOAA
Gulf oil spill cleanup workers replace oiled pompons with clean ones on a beach.

NIH has launched a 10-year study to examine the potential human health effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Investigators for the Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study (GuLF Study) plan to obtain health information for 55,000 oil spill cleanup workers and volunteers, as well as information about their cleanup work and exposures. They will also monitor participants for health effects, such as respiratory, immunological, and neurobehavioral disorders, over the next 10 years. Samples of blood, urine, toenails, hair, and house dust will be collected from a subset of about 20,000 participants. Those samples will be analyzed for chemicals found in crude oil and dispersants, such as benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. “The goal of the GuLF Study is to help us learn if oil spills and exposure to crude oil and dispersants affect physical and mental health,” says Dale P. Sandler, chief of epidemiology at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and principal investigator of the study. NIH has already committed $19 million to the effort, and the total price tag is expected to climb to $34 million.


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