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The legacy of the Gulf oil spill: Analyzing acute public health effects and predicting chronic ones in Louisiana

James H. Diaz, MD, MPH, DrPH, FACOEM, FACMT

Abstract


Objectives: To describe the acute health impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Louisiana as compared with the acute health impacts reported from prior crude oil spills. To predict potential chronic health impacts in Louisiana as compared with the chronic health impacts reported from prior crude oil spills.
Setting: Offshore and onshore coastal southeastern Louisiana.
Patients and participants: Oil spill offshore and onshore cleanup workers and the general population of coastal southeastern Louisiana.
Interventions: Not applicable to an observational study.
Main outcome measures: Adverse acute health effects of petrochemical and dispersant exposures in highly exposed offshore and onshore cleanup workers and the general population; prior chronic adverse health effects reported from prior oil spills; and predicted chronic adverse health effects based on intensity of chemical exposures and on seroprevalences of genetic polymorphisms.
Results: Acute health effects in cleanup workers mirrored those reported in cleanup workers following prior oil spills as ranked by systems (and by symptoms). Acute health effects in lesser exposed members of the general population mirrored those reported in similar coastal residents following prior oil spills but differed from cleanup workers as ranked by systems (and symptoms).
Conclusions: Subpopulations of cleanup workers and the general population with specific conditions or genetic polymorphisms in enzyme systems that detoxify polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in petrochemicals and glycols in dispersants will require long-term surveillance for chronic adverse health effects including cancer, liver and kidney diseases, mental health disorders, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.


Keywords


disasters, manmade, oil spills, oil tanker spills, Ixtoc 1 oil spill, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, adverse human health effects, mental health

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/ajdm.2011.0040

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