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Environmental Factor, November 2012

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GuLF STUDY makes final call for study participants

By Robin Mackar

Gulf Study logo
Dale Sandler, Ph.D.

Sandler has led several recruitment tours in the Gulf region, forging partnerships with community groups and getting the word out to cleanup workers and volunteers. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

During a series of media outreach efforts in October, NIEHS epidemiologist Dale Sandler, Ph.D., lead researcher for the GuLF STUDY (Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study), her team, and community partners throughout the Gulf region put a call out to encourage oil spill cleanup workers and volunteers to join the study before enrollment closes at the end of the year. 


“Every worker and volunteer has a story to tell, and we would like to hear every story, to better understand the potential health effects of oil and dispersants,” Sandler said during an Oct. 2 telephone press conference.

“With the help of more than 80 community and professional groups across the Gulf Coast, the GuLF STUDY has enrolled more than 29,000 people to date,” said Sandler, who is chief of the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch. “The cleanup response involved a wide range of tasks carried out by a large number of people who each experienced exposures to oil and dispersants under unique circumstances. We want to understand the experiences of all types of workers.”

Community leaders

"The oil spill raised a lot of questions for people here who helped with the cleanup, and we hope the GuLF STUDY will provide answers," said Paige Rucker, a community partner and the state director of Project Rebound, an Alabama nonprofit organization assisting those impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Roberta Avila, executive director of the Steps Coalition in Mississippi, joined Rucker and Sandler for the teleconference with about 20 media outlets, encouraging workers to enroll in the study. “The information the GuLF STUDY provides could help inform public policy as it pertains to healthcare delivery in the area,” Avila told the attendees.

Calling all eligible workers and volunteers

NIEHS is seeking all eligible workers and volunteers — those who are healthy, as well as those who may have health challenges — to enroll in the study. NIEHS is also making a special request for anyone who worked near the source of the spill, such as oil rig workers and rig support personnel, to sign up. Because of their proximity to the spill, it will be important to understand how their exposure might affect their health.

Expected to last at least 10 years, the GuLF STUDY will generate important data that could help inform policy decisions on health care and health services in the Gulf Coast region. Findings could also influence responses to other oil spills in the future.

For more information, call the GuLF STUDY toll-free at 1-855-NIH-GULF (1-855-644-4853) or visit the GuLF STUDY website at

(Robin Mackar is the news director in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

Roberta Avila

Avila has worked in nonprofit and social justice sectors on the Mississippi coast for 22 years. She was involved in Katrina relief efforts prior to the Gulf oil spill. (Photo courtesy of Roberta Avila)

Paige Rucker

Rucker’s background in advertising has helped Project Rebound craft a compelling message to Gulf residents. (Photo courtesy of Paige Rucker)

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