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Study to explore long-term health impact of oil exposure

February 24, 2011

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Research Triangle Park, NC – The largest oil-spill health study to date began in the Gulf Coast Feb. 28, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reported recently.

The Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up Study will focus on the long-term health effects the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had on workers engaged in cleanup efforts. Workers were exposed to crude and weathered oil, burning oil, and oil dispersants that contained a variety of toxins. Very little data exists on the impact of exposure.

The study will seek to involve all of the nearly 130,000 cleanup workers, with those from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida – the most heavily affected states – studied most intensively.

During the cleanup, many workers complained of skin rashes, blurry vision, itchy and watery eyes, runny noses, and heat-related problems. Researchers suspect long-term outcomes may include respiratory, neurological and immune response problems.

Researchers hope the findings of the study will help influence the response to future oil spills and inform health care-related policy decisions for both cleanup workers and individuals who live in affected regions.

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