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Suggested Citation:"INTRODUCTION." Institute of Medicine. 2010. Review of the Proposal for the Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up Study: Highlights from the September 2010 Workshop: Workshop Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13025.
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INTRODUCTION On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon, a semisubmersible offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded. The well that the rig was drilling began to spew crude oil into the Gulf and continued to spew millions of liters of crude oil, until it was successfully capped in mid-July. This oil spill is unprecedented in its size, duration, and deep-water nature and in the use of dispersants and controlled burns in an attempt to ameliorate the spill. The potential for human health effects linked to exposure to the oil in the environment and to the dispersants and fumes from the controlled burns is of concern. Mental and behavioral health effects due to the temporary or permanent loss of livelihoods among the individuals in the fishing community and oil workers and uncertainty about the health of their environment and when they can return to work are also of concern. Although studies of previous oil spills provide some basis for identifying and mitigating the human health effects of oil spills, the existing data are insufficient to provide a full understanding of and to be able to predict the overall impact of hazards from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on the health of individuals—including workers, volunteers, residents, visitors, and special populations.1 Many of the previous studies were designed to evaluate short-term health effects only and dealt with spills that were finite in volume and time (for example, the Exxon Valdez and Prestige spills in 1989 and 2002, respectively). Aiming to fill the gap in knowledge on the health effects of oil spills, as well as to assemble information that can be used for prevention of adverse health outcomes and interventions against such outcomes in any similar disasters in the future, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) plans to conduct a study designed to investigate potential short- and long-term health effects among workers engaged in cleanup activities linked to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. 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 a wide range of potential adverse health effects, including physical, psychological, and biological effects. As part of its ongoing commitment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide periodic independent reviews of the federal response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as it relates to the surveillance and monitoring of acute and long-term physical and behavioral health effects, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convened the Committee to Review the Federal Response to the Health Effects Associated with the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. As part of its work, the committee 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.2 This document highlights the presentations and discussions that occurred during the workshop, which was held on September 22, 2010, in Tampa, Florida. The workshop agenda can be found in the Appendix. 1 IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2010. Assessing the Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on Human Health. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 2 The version of the GuLF study protocol that the workshop participants provided comments on can be accessed at 0DRAFT%20to%20IOM%202010-09-17.pdf. 1

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The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is unprecedented not only in its size but also in the use of chemical dispersants and controlled burns to remove the oil. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is designing a study to investigate the health effects on clean-up workers. The IOM held a workshop to review and comment on NIEHS'o;s study protocol.

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