The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is making another push to get people who worked on the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil disaster cleanup to enroll in a long-term health study.
During a telephone news conference Tuesday, Dr. Dale Sandler, chief of the epidemiology branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health and principal investigator in the study, said more than 29,000 people have enrolled so far. The goal is to get 35,000 to 40,000 people signed up before enrollment in the study ends Dec. 31.
The enrollment started in March 2011. Participants first do a phone interview with the study team and then there is a follow-up home health visit during which a second interview is conducted and basic medical tests, such as blood pressure and blood samples, are taken, she explained.
People who complete the phone interview and the home health examination are given a $50 gift card for their time and they receive information about their health, Sandler said.
Sandler said she expects some preliminary results that can be shared with communities along the Gulf of Mexico coast by the middle of next year.
The study looks at how the oil leak cleanup work affects the physical and mental health of people who participated, she said.
“It’s important to put out there that participation in the Gulf study is completely confidential,” Sandler said.
This Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study is the largest health study of its kind focused on cleanup workers and volunteers, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
“It’s really important we include as many different types of workers as possible and in large numbers,” she said.
One group that seems underrepresented so far are people who worked on the oil rigs.
The study team started with a list of 150,000 people they believed were involved in the oil leak cleanup and response, but almost 60 percent of the phone numbers were no longer working, she said.
The study group has worked with more than 80 community groups across the Gulf of Mexico to spread the word about the study, she said.
Roberta Avila, executive director of Steps Coalition in Mississippi, said the members of the 39 social justice organizations that make up this nonprofit coalition have expressed concerns about possible effects of the disaster.
“We believe this (the study) will provide answers that are important to the community,” Avila said.
Sandler said the next goal in the study will be to do 20,000 home health examinations by late April. Some 8,000 home examinations have been completed and another 7,000 have been scheduled, she said.
As the work continues, Sandler said, information will be available on the study’s website and during community meetings at communities across the Gulf Coast.
People may be eligible for the study if they are at least 21 years old, did oil leak cleanup work for at least a day, completed oil leak worker training but didn’t do oil leak cleanup, or had a supporting role in the oil leak cleanup.
People interested in participating in the study can call (855) NIH-GULF (644-4853) or visit the study’s website at http://www.gulfstudy.nih.gov.
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