Skip Over Navigation Links

Freedom of Information Act Office

IC Directors' Meeting Highlights

August 30, 2010

To: IC Directors
From: Vesna Kutlesic, Ph.D.
Subject: IC Directors Meeting Highlights—July 8, 2010


Drs. Aubrey Miller and Gwen Collman from NIEHS presented on the NIEHS and National Toxicology Program (NTP) response to the Gulf Oil Spill. The Deepwater Horizon Explosion occurred on April 20, 2010 about 48 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast, and killed 11 workers and injured 17 others, with 98 survivors. Exposures of concern include crude oil, dispersants, and the burning of these chemicals. Health effects of concern include various types of cancer, neurologic effects, chemical pneumonia, and anemia (among others).

The NIEHS Superfund Worker Training Program that was created in 1986 to train workers in the management of hazardous waste has been tapped to assist with the Gulf Oil Spill response. NIEHS developed an oil spill response training tool on April 29, 2010, and worked with OSHA and NIOSH as part of the Unified Command to assess worker safety issues and concerns. As of June 29, 2010, according to British Petroleum, approximately 50,000 people have completed these courses.

NIEHS has received a mission assignment from the US Coast Guard which will include: 1) enhancing the safety training of fisherman in the region, 2) conducting a training quality assessment process to ensure clean up workers receive proper training for the oil spill response, 3) creating additional curricula and modules to cover essential health and safety hazards for oil spill cleanup workers, 4) developing a training to support personal protection equipment for oil spill responders, and 5) integrating safety and health training into an overall responder protection program in conjunction with BP, CG, OSHA, NIOSH, and others.

In May 2010, the National Toxicology Program established an Interagency Health Monitoring and Research Work Group with the CDC, and has 60 members currently from HHS (NIEHS, CDC, SAMHSA, OS/ASPR), OSHA, EPA, Coast Guard, NOAA, state health, and academia. Focus areas include toxicology, survey tools, medical testing/biomonitoring, health problem surveillance, stakeholder involvement, and exposure matrix development. NIEHS allocated $2M to begin toxicological studies to identify important biological and tissue agents for oil fractions appearing in the gulf, as well as chemical analysis of crude oil, dispersants, and weathered oil samples.

NIEHS has also proposed an intramural research project, “The GuLF Study,” to examine the potential short- and long-term health consequences of exposure to oil and oil byproducts. The NIEHS Division of Extramural Research & Training is also assembling a comprehensive research portfolio that will address monitoring, exposure assessment, risk assessment, communication, and outreach. NCMHD had already established a consortium of 7 institutions to form the Science, Education, Community United to Respond to Emergencies (SECURE) Program, which can be tapped to assist with the Gulf Oil Spill response. The SECURE Program is involved with enhancing surveillance systems, guiding responders during and after a disaster, and helping arrange post-disaster health care, training, and counseling.

Dr. Collins reported that $20M (i.e., $10M from the NIH Directors Common Fund and an additional $10M from the NIH Directors Discretionary Fund) will be used to support biomedical research and training related to the Gulf Oil Spill crisis. He added that NIH and CDC are working on these initiatives together, which will include a multi-component effort put together in a short period of time. Dr. Alving suggested that DoD should also be consulted, given that during Desert Storm, soldiers were exposed to burning oil wells and DoD may have data on related health effects. Dr. Fauci added that consideration should also be given to the impact on the fishing industry, and whether seafood from the Gulf will be safe for consumption.

This page last reviewed on May 29, 2012

Social Media Links