NIH launches largest oil spill health study
A new study that will look at possible health effects of the Gulf of Mexico's Deepwater Horizon oil spill on 55,000 cleanup workers and volunteers has begun in towns across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The study is the largest health study of its kind ever conducted among cleanup workers and volunteers, and is one component of a comprehensive federal response to the Deepwater Horizons oil spill.
Akinso: The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has launched The GuLF STUDY (Gulf Long-term Follow-up or GuLF Study).
Sandler: The GuLF Study is the largest study that’s ever been conducted on the health effects of oil spills.
Akinso: Dr. Dale Sandler is the principal investigator of the GuLF Study.
Sandler: The study is specifically for people who helped clean-up the Deep Water Horizons Gulf oil spill or had something to do related to that effort.
Akinso: The GuLF Study will reach out to some of the 100,000 people who took the cleanup worker safety training and to others who were involved in some aspect of the oil spill cleanup. The goal is to enroll 55,000 people in the study, but they must fit certain criteria.
Sandler: To be eligible for the Gulf study people had to have some connection to the Gulf oil spill clean up. Be it, by actually doing something that was potentially hazardous, like standing over the oil or working in a support capacity. There is no upper age limit. The younger age limit is 21. There is also no limit for where you live. Most of the people live in the four Gulf States.
Akinso: Dr. Sandler explains that about 20,000 of the people who enroll in this study will participate in a home visit.
Sandler: And that home visit will involve a very brief clinical exam, where we will measure lung function and blood pressure, height and weight and collect some biological blood samples. And we will be following up these 20,000 people who do the home visits with more actively by asking them to complete telephone interviews ever couple of years.
Akinso: The study has been developed to make participation as easy and convenient as possible. Dr. Sandler says the study will keep all personal information private.
Sandler: We are working under the privacy act. And information on individuals is of course kept private and confidential but the data we generate we will be sharing. We will actually make raw data available for others to use as part of our goals for doing this study in the open and having as many people as possible take advantage of the information we’re collecting.
Akinso: Over time, the GuLF STUDY will generate important data that may help inform policy decisions on health care and health services in the region. Findings may also influence responses to other oil spills in the future. For more information, call the GuLF Study toll-free number at 1-855-644-4853 or visit www.niehs.nih.gov/GuLFSTUDY. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.