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Friday 28th October 2016

BP to fund oil spill health study

7th September 2010

Top health researchers in the United States say they are planning to use funding from BP to conduct major studies into the effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on people's health.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has already poured US$10 million into such research, and will boost the existing research with a further US$10 million from BP.

The money will be used to study the health effects of the spill on clean-up workers who came into regular contact with oil and the dispersants used to break up the spill.

Any respiratory, neurobehavioral, carcinogenic, and immune system problems will be followed.

Non-physical effects on well-being, including mental health problems, unemployment, family disruption and financial uncertainty will also be studied.

NIH director Francis Collins said the donation from BP would help speed the institute's work with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies, academia, as well as state and local partners in the study.

Collins said it was necessary to start studying the health of the workers most directly involved in responding to the crisis immediately.

The ruptured BP oil well was secured at the weekend, with the government saying it expected no further spills of crude oil into the ocean.

The April 20 Macondo well failure led to an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig which killed 11 crew members.

For the next three months, the ruptured well spewed more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf until it was finally sealed with mud and concrete by BP on Aug. 5.

Researchers said they expected the clean-up workers to have had the heaviest exposure to the oil and the chemicals used to disperse it.

Dale Sandler of the NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Services, which will lead the study, said the team hoped to recruit workers involved in oil burning, skimming and booming, equipment decontamination and wildlife cleanup.

Those with lower exposure, like shoreline clean-up workers, would also be invited to take part, with workers who were trained but who never did any clean-up work acting as a control group for the study.

Sandler said the results of the study could inform future responses to similar disasters.

Contact with oil and chemicals can affect the lungs, kidneys, and liver.

Anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress can be experienced by those exposed up to six years later.

Local residents affected by the Exxon Valdez spill were more than three time more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder, nearly three times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder and twice as likely to show signs of depression, a study found.

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