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Your Environment. Your Health.

Lung Effects from Deepwater Horizon Oil Burn Off

Stephania Cormier, Ph.D.
Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, University Tennessee Health Science Center
NIEHS Grants P42ES013648, R01ES015050

The controlled burning of trapped crude oil on the water surface during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill released numerous pollutants, including particulate matter. A study, partially funded by NIEHS, revealed that acute exposure to the particulate matter from this burn off is associated with lung inflammation and exacerbated allergic asthma in mice.

For the study, the researchers used particulate matter collected from controlled-burn plumes of the DWH oil spill. In cell studies, they found that the particulate matter caused toxicity and generated reactive oxygen species and superoxide radicals. Mice exposed to the particulate matter exhibited significant decreases in body weight gain, systemic oxidative stress, and airway inflammation. The researchers also exposed a mouse model of allergic asthma to the DWH particulate matter and found an exacerbated allergic asthma response via increased T helper 2 cells, lung inflammation, and airway mucus production.

The researchers said that their findings provide valuable information for understanding potential health effects in people, especially with preexisting lung conditions.

Citation: Jaligama S, Chen Z, Saravia J, Yadav N, Lomnicki SM, Dugas TR, Cormier SA. 2015. Exposure to Deepwater Horizon crude oil burn-off particulate matter induces pulmonary inflammation and alters adaptive immune response. Environ Sci Technol 49(14):8769-8776.