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article imageStudy: BP’s spill on human health effects being launched

By Lynn Herrmann     Feb 19, 2011 in Health
Washington - A long-term study on human health effects related to last year’s BP oil spill is set to be launched and is considered groundbreaking, as there is “ surprisingly little information” available on those long-term effects after a spill.
The study is being conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and calls for interviews with 55,000 people along the upper Gulf Coast who were involved in various levels of the BP oil disaster, including direct exposure to the crude oil and highly questionable use of the dispersant Corexit which forced the oil to remain below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. The target group also includes cleanup workers.
Nola.com reports the plan then calls for 20,000 to 25,000 of the initial interviewees to be tracked during the following 10 years with the study covering such issues as biological indicators and health conditions, new and old. The researchers will then attempt to draw conclusions on causes and effects.
“There is surprisingly little information in an organized way about what happens after an oil spill,” said Dale Sandler, an epidemiologist who leads the study, according to Nola.com. “We will be talking about probabilities and likelihoods, not certainties,” she added.
The first 2,000 recruitment letters go out later this month and the initial recruitment will target 100,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to ensure enough participation in the study. The large number is necessary, according to Sandler, to ensure tracking participants in enough groups to include medical history, exposure level to the spill, job history and lifestyle.
The study does not call for the actual provision of medical care, but group participants will be referred to health care providers as needed. Initial interviews will be conducted by phone, spread out over the course of a year, with the follow-up phase including in--home visits. There is no target date for a final report but Nola.com reports NIH will consider an extended follow-up beyond the initial 10 years.
Short term tests have already discovered Gulf Coast wetlands and ecosystem soil along with seafood samples containing varying amounts of Alkylated Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Oil Range Organic Petroleum Hydrocarbons that correspond to BP’s Louisiana Sweet Crude fingerprint, according to a sampling project by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
The National Oil Spill Commission’s final report to President Barack Obama, released in January noted a perception of the government’s inadequate response over health issues related to the spill. “Whether allegations that the spill created health problems for responders and Gulf Coast residents are warranted does not change the perception among some that government has not been responsive to health concerns,” the report stated in part.
NIH has committed $17.8 million to the research, with $6 million of that amount coming from BP.
More about bp oil spill, oil commission report, national institue of health, Gulf coast, upper gulf coast
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