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  • U.S. to Launch Gulf Oil Spill Health Study

    Published on September 8, 2010

    The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) will launch a multi-year study this fall to look at the potential health effects from the oil spill in the Gulf region, the NIH said Tuesday in a statement.

    The Gulf Worker Study is in response to the largest oil spill in U.S. history, caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

    NIH director Francis Collins pledged 10 million U.S. dollars in NIH funding for the study’s initial phases. To help expedite the launch of the study, BP will contribute an additional 10 million dollars to NIH for this and other important health research.

    The BP funding will come through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI). The GRI is a ten-year, 500-million-dollar independent research program established by BP to better understand and mitigate the environmental and potential health effects of the Gulf spill.

    “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,” said Collins.

    “The donation from BP will help speed our work with CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and other federal agencies, academia, as well as state and local partners to carry out this important study.” he added.

    Collins asked the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the NIH, to lead the research project.

    The study will focus on workers’ exposure to oil and dispersant products, and potential health consequences such as respiratory, neurobehavioral, carcinogenic, and immunological conditions. The study is also expected to evaluate mental health concerns and other oil spill-related stressors such as job loss, family disruption, and financial uncertainties.

    “Clean-up 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. “What we learn from this study may help us prepare for future incidents that put clean-up workers at risk.”

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