Purpose The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) disaster in 2010 was the largest marine oil spill in history. We have established a prospective cohort study of U.S. Coast Guard DWH responders. Here, we describe the cohort and present results from a cross-sectional analysis of self-reported exposure and health effects.
Methods Coast Guard DWH responders and non-responders were identified via Coast Guard administrative data. Responders who completed an exit survey were included in a cross-sectional analysis to investigate the association of oil exposures with a range of respiratory, neurological, and dermal effects. Oil exposure was based on oil/oily water inhalation, ingestion, dermal contact, and submersion of a body part. To investigate cross-sectional exposure-outcome associations, we calculated prevalence ratios (PRs) and 95% confidence intervals using log binomial regressions, adjusting for age.
Results The Coast Guard DWH cohort (N = 55,587) is comprised of both responders (N = 9,030) and non-responders (N = 46,557). Among responders, 5,567 (62%) completed an exit survey. Those reporting ever having oil/oily water exposure (N = 2,977; 53%) had, statistically significant increased PRs for wheezing (3.73), shortness of breath (3.36), coughing (2.41), light headedness (3.23), numbness or tingling (2.57), headaches (1.88), and rash (4.22). Responders reporting inhalation of oil/oily water most or all of the time were 6.80 times more likely to report shortness of breath and 6.27 times more likely to report tremors, compared with those not exposed via inhalation. Those reporting oil/oily water skin contact most or all of the time were 6.74 times more likely to report skin rash or itching, compared with those not exposed via skin contact.
Conclusions Responders reporting oil exposures during the DWH response had elevated rates of reported respiratory, neurological, and dermal health effects during their deployment(s), based on cross sectional analyses. We are evaluating these findings further using prospective analyses of health encounter data available through 2011.
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