Multiyear study to focus on health effects of Gulf oil spill workers
The announcement by NIH Director Francis S. Collins came in response to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year.
In addition to the possible physical effects to be studied will be mental and emotional health consequences, such as job loss, family disruption, and financial uncertainties.
"It was clear to us that we need to begin immediately studying the health of the workers most directly involved in responding to this crisis," Collins said. He also said the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences part of the NIH will lead the research project.
Collins has pledged $10 million of NIH funding for the initial study phase. BP is contributing an additional $10 million toward this project, as well as other health research.
"Cleanup workers are likely to be the most heavily exposed of all population groups in the Gulf Coast region," said Dale Sandler, chief of the epidemiology branch at NIEHS and lead researcher on the study. "We plan to enroll workers with varying levels of exposure."
Sandler said workers involved in oil burning, skimming and booming, equipment decontamination, and wildlife cleanup would be recruited for the study. Workers with lower exposure, such as shoreline cleanup workers, will also be targeted. Workers who received safety training but were not involved in the cleanup will function as the study controls.
"What we learn from this study may help us prepare for future incidents that put cleanup workers at risk," Sandler said.
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October 21, 2010
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