The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, activated programs throughout the institute to provide timely and responsive services following the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill of 2010. NIEHS research efforts in this area continue.
The GuLF STUDY (Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study) is a health study for individuals who helped with the oil spill cleanup, took training, signed up to work, or were sent to the Gulf to help in some way after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The NIEHS initiated the study in June 2010. The GuLF STUDY will help determine if oil spills, and exposure to crude oil and dispersants, affect physical and mental health. Researchers are studying a range of problems, including breathing and blood pressure issues, skin conditions, self-reported symptoms, and cancer, as well as depression, stress, and anxiety. Almost 33,000 cleanup workers are enrolled in the 10-year health study, making a significant contribution to their communities and answering important public health questions. For more information on this study, visit GuLFSTUDY.
NIEHS awarded $25.2 million in research grants to Gulf area universities that partner with communities affected by the oil spill. This research network also referred to as the Deepwater Horizon Research Consortia is addressing health questions specifically identified by the communities in need. Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans; Tulane University, New Orleans; University of Florida, Gainesville; and The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston are the five-year grant recipients. These research teams are evaluating reproduction and birth outcomes, general health and well-being among coastal residents, and seafood safety. Researchers are also analyzing individual and community resilience post-disaster, and determining the impact resilience may have on behavior and mental health of children and adults living in the Gulf region.
Disaster Research Response Efforts
NIEHS has played an important role in research related to disasters for more than 30 years, including the World Trade Center attack, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the Gulf Oil Spill, and the ongoing Ebola response. Health and safety concerns dominate every disaster and research helps to provide a better understanding of the health risks, exposures, treatments, and impacts associated with these tragic events. To be able to perform time-critical health research following disasters and other emergencies, NIEHS and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) have joined together to create the NIH Disaster Research Response Program. The website serves as a data collection tools repository. The project will help improve our nation’s capabilities for performing timely environmental health research to address identified knowledge gaps in response to emerging threats and disasters. For more information on these efforts visit Disaster Research Response Efforts.
The National Toxicology Program (NTP), headquartered at NIEHS, has established a research program to increase understanding of polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs), widespread environmental contaminants that are naturally present in crude oil and also formed during the incomplete burning of gas, coal, and other organic matter. The oil spill brought to light knowledge gaps on the ecological and human health hazards of these compounds. NTP is studying both individual PACs and PAC mixtures, to gain a better understanding of how exposures to these compounds may affect human health. For more information on this research, visit NTP Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds Research.
Protecting the health and safety of response workers is top priority for NIEHS. Within days of the oil rig explosion, staff from the NIEHS Worker Training Program were on-site to train approximately 150,000 cleanup workers to protect their own health and safety while responding to the disaster. NIEHS continues to work with Gulf communities, clinicians, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to develop and provide additional types of training, including training that addresses the mental health impact experienced by cleanup workers and emergency responders. For more on this resiliency training, visit Responder & Community Resilience.
NIEHS Newsletter Articles
- September 19, 2017 - Gulf Spill Oil Dispersants Associated with Health Symptoms in Cleanup Workers