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Assessing the Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on Human Health: A Summary of the June 2010 Workshop
Charge to the IOM from HHS
Identify and discuss the populations most vulnerable to or at increased risks for adverse health effects, including worker subpopulations.
Review current knowledge and identify knowledge gaps regarding the human health effects of exposure to oil, weathered oil products, dispersants, and environmental conditions such as heat.
Consider effective communication strategies to convey information about health risks to at-risk populations, accounting for culture, health literacy, language, technology, and geographic barriers.
Explore research methodologies and appropriate data collection to further our understanding of the risks to human health.
Review and assess components of a framework for short- and long-term surveillance to monitor the spill’s potential adverse health effects.
individual panels; and (4) speaking during the workshop’s public comment session. Appendix D includes a brief summary of the public comments and questions submitted to the IOM through all four methods.
During the 2-day workshop, several individuals made personal recommendations for moving forward. Importantly, the personal recommendations and the other statements and opinions that were expressed do not reflect group consensus and should not be construed as such. None of the ideas and suggestions published in this report have been endorsed or verified by the National Academies, the Institute of Medicine, or workshop participants as a whole. Furthermore, although the current affiliations of panelists are noted in the report, many speakers qualified their comments as personal opinion that did not necessarily represent the positions of their affiliated organizations (unless specifically noted). Finally, readers should keep in mind that the workshop and writing of this summary report occurred in mid-June through mid-July, 2010, just after British Petroleum installed a temporary cap on the broken wellhead.
The IOM workshop covered a wide range of complex and sometimes sensitive issues. To avoid confusion, it is important to define a few key terms that will be used throughout this summary. First, “health” is a very broad concept. Lynn Goldman reminded the workshop that the World Health Organization defines “health” as a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Additionally, a number of participants noted the impact that a failing economy can have on health. Although the summary sometimes