The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has announced that it will launch a massive, long-term study, to help learn if oil spills and exposure to crude oil and dispersants affect physical and mental health of Gulf coast residents and volunteers.
According to NIEHS, the GuLF STUDY (Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study), which will investigate potential short- and long-term health effects associated with clean-up activities and exposures surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, is slated to start sometime this month.
More than 100,000 persons completed safety training in preparation for participation in clean-up activities related to the spill. Many of these individuals participated in active clean-up efforts, but others did not.
NIEHS states that “Exposures among persons involved in clean-up range from negligible to potentially significant, especially for workers involved in tasks associated with direct exposure to crude or burning oil, or to chemical dispersants.”
During the study, up to 25,000 participants will be tracked over the next 10 to 20 years as researchers document their health, lifestyle and seafood-consumption habits and track any illnesses, new and old, attempting to find causes and effects.
Too Little, Too Late?
Although they’ve been paid little attention in the mainstream media, many of these workers have spoken out against the lack of medical treatment provided for those suffering due to the spill.
Truthout.org recently wrote on this topic, including stories from Gulf Coast residents who claim they were “poisoned” by chemicals used during the spill and subsequent clean up activities.
These individuals say they don’t have time to wait for a drawn-out study to confirm the cause of their health troubles.
During the many months that the oil spill wreaked havoc in the Gulf, Care2 reported several times about questionable treatment of volunteers by both BP and the government organizations that organized clean-up projects; including evidence that BP refused to provide respirators to workers because of “the way it would look” to the media and public.
In May 2010, Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the EPA’s office of solid waste and emergency response, told the Washington Post, “There’s no way you can be working in that toxic soup without getting exposures,”
Image Credit: Audubon Society via earthrehab.files.wordpress.com