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Research Priorities for Assessing Health Effects from the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: A Letter Report
workers engaged in cleanup activities linked to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill for potential short-and long-term health effects. That study, the Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up Study for Oil Spill Clean-Up Workers and Volunteers (the GuLF study), aims not to study a few narrow hypotheses but, rather, aims to allow the investigation of individuals for a wide range of adverse health effects, including physical, psychological, and biological effects.
As part of its work, the IOM Committee to Review the Federal Response to the Health Effects Associated with the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill planned a workshop to bring together experts to review and make comments on the GuLF study protocol, which was published on the IOM website just before the conference.1 The workshop was held on September 22, 2010, in Tampa, Florida. Highlights from the presentations and discussions at this workshop have been published (IOM, 2010b).
To inform the development of research priorities, the Committee to Review the Federal Response to the Health Effects Associated with the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill gathered information during a public session held on September 23, 2010, also in Tampa, Florida. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, charged the committee. In addition to research priorities directly related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Dr. Lurie stated that HHS is interested in learning about priorities related to developing research protocols that could be used in future disasters and considers such recommendations to be within the scope of work. Presentation topics included lessons learned from the World Trade Center Health Registry, the Gulf Health University Consortium, and the perspectives of individuals in Gulf region communities. After the public session, the committee met in closed session to review the evidence and deliberate about research priorities for assessing the health effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. This letter report contains a summary of the review of the evidence and the committee’s recommended research priorities.
The committee recognizes that the federal government has already determined that study of the potential short- and long-term health effects among workers engaged in cleanup activities linked to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a major priority—so much so—that a planning effort for the GuLF study already was well underway at the time of the committee’s September 23, 2010 meeting. Given that and the fact that the committee hosted a workshop to review issues related to the GuLF study on September 22, 2010, the committee interpreted its charge for the evaluation described in this letter report to focus on studies to be conducted in addition to and building on the GuLF study. In her remarks, Dr. Lurie emphasized that this letter report was not for the purpose of further critiquing the GuLF study.
RATIONALE FOR STUDYING HEALTH EFFECTSFROM THE GULF OF MEXICO OIL SPILL
The committee believes that it is critical to study health effects from oil spills for three reasons: to learn about the impact of oil spills on human health, to improve mitigation efforts,