thinking around how best to design a strategic research program so that the affected communities do not feel like “guinea pigs.” Guidry also commented on the added challenge created when messages are sent to the public about the potential chronic health consequences of exposure, such as cancer, despite insufficient scientific evidence to support those claims. He opined that sharing conjecture with the public may add to emerging mental health problems. Those messages can be difficult to hear when people are already worried about what they should and should not do in the face of a disaster. Williamson agreed with Guidry about the need to not let “half-science create unnecessary fear.” He said that part of the problem is that the longitudinal follow-up studies necessary to address some of the remaining questions about the potential long-term, human health consequences of exposure to oil spills were not conducted after the Exxon Valdez spill. He cautioned that the Deepwater Horizon disaster “won’t be the last spill” and said he hoped that the public health community is not faced with the same unanswered questions in the future.


The Specific Goals and Activities of the U.S. Federal Government Health Response2

John Howard, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

As John Howard explained, the Department of Homeland Security is in charge of the overall Deepwater Horizon response (under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5). At the operational level, the federal response to the Gulf oil spill is under the direction of Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, with the White House Domestic Policy Council coordinating the federal-level, human health response (i.e., health-related activities of all federal agencies and cabinet-level departments). Within


This section summarizes panel remarks that pertained to the federal response. See Chapter 1 for a summary of Howard’s remarks on populations of concern.

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