The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Coast Guard Cohort study.
ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVES:Long-term studies of oil spill responders are urgently needed as oil spills continue to occur. To this end, we established the prospective Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Oil Spill Coast Guard Cohort study. METHODS:DWH oil spill responders (n=8696) and non-responders (n=44?823) who were members of the US Coast Guard (20 April-17 December 2010) were included. This cohort uses both prospective, objective health data from military medical encounters and cross-sectional survey data. Here, we describe the cohort, present adjusted prevalence ratios (PRs) estimating cross-sectional associations between crude oil exposure (none, low/medium, high) and acute physical symptoms, and present adjusted relative risks (RRs) based on longitudinal medical encounter data (2010-2012) for responders/non-responders and responders exposed/not exposed to crude oil. RESULTS:Responders and non-responders in this large cohort (n=53?519) have similar characteristics. Crude oil exposure was reported by >50% of responders. We found statistically significant associations for crude oil exposure with coughing (PRhigh=1.78), shortness of breath (PRhigh=2.30), wheezing (PRhigh=2.32), headaches (PRhigh=1.46), light-headedness/dizziness (PRhigh=1.96), skin rash/itching (PRhigh=1.87), diarrhoea (PRhigh=1.76), stomach pain (PRhigh=1.67), nausea/vomiting (PRhigh=1.48) and painful/burning urination (PRhigh=2.89) during deployment. Longitudinal analyses revealed that responders had elevated RRs for dermal conditions (RR=1.09), as did oil-exposed responders for chronic respiratory conditions (RR=1.32), asthma (RR=1.83) and dermal conditions (RR=1.21). CONCLUSIONS:We found positive associations between crude oil exposure and various acute physical symptoms among responders, as well as longer term health effects. This cohort is well positioned to evaluate both short-term and long-term effects of oil spill exposures using both self-reported and clinical health data.
Project description:INTRODUCTION:The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill was the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history, involving the response of tens of thousands clean-up workers. Over 8500 United States Coast Guard personnel were deployed in response to the spill. Little is understood about the acute neurological effects of oil spill clean-up-related exposures. Given the large number of people involved in large oil spill clean-ups, study of these effects is warranted. METHODS:We utilized exposure, health, and lifestyle data from a post-deployment survey administered to Coast Guard responders to the DWH oil spill. Crude oil exposure was assessed via self-reported inhalation and skin contact metrics, categorized by frequency of self-reported exposure to crude oil during deployment (never, rarely, sometimes, most/all of the time). Combined exposure to crude oil and oil dispersant was also evaluated. Adjusted log binomial regressions were used to calculate prevalence ratios (PRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), investigating the associations between oil spill exposures and neurological symptoms during deployment. Stratified analyses investigated potential effect modification by sex, exhaust fume exposure, personal protective equipment (PPE) use, and deployment duration and timing. RESULTS:Increasing frequency of crude oil exposure via inhalation was associated with increased likelihood of headaches (PRmost/all vs. never?=?1.80), lightheadedness (PRmost/all vs. never?=?3.36), difficulty concentrating (PRmost/all vs. never?=?1.72), numbness/tingling sensation (PRmost/all vs. never?=?3.32), blurred vision (PRmost/all vs. never?=?2.87), and memory loss/confusion (PRmost/all vs. never?=?2.03), with significant tests for trend. Similar results were found for crude oil exposure via skin contact. Exposure to both oil and oil dispersants yielded associations that were appreciably greater in magnitude than for oil alone for all neurological symptoms. Sensitivity analyses excluding responders in the highest environmental heat categories and responders with relevant pre-existing conditions indicated robustness of these results. Stratified analyses indicated possible effect modification by sex, PPE use, and heat exposure. CONCLUSIONS:This study provides evidence of a cross sectional association between crude oil exposures and acute neurological symptoms in a sample of U.S. Coast Guard responders. Additionally, it suggests that exposure to both crude oil and oil dispersant may result in stronger associations and that heat may interact synergistically with oil exposures resulting in more acute neurological symptoms. Future investigations are needed to confirm these findings.
Project description:INTRODUCTION:Over 8500 United States Coast Guard (USCG) personnel were deployed in response to the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill; however, human respiratory effects as a result of spill-related exposures are relatively unknown. METHODS:USCG personnel who responded to the DWH oil spill were queried via survey on exposures to crude oil and oil dispersant, and acute respiratory symptoms experienced during deployment. Adjusted log binomial regressions were used to calculate prevalence ratios (PRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), investigating the associations between oil spill exposures and respiratory symptoms. RESULTS:4855 USCG personnel completed the survey. More than half (54.6%) and almost one-fourth (22.0%) of responders were exposed to crude oil and oil dispersants, respectively. Coughing was the most prevalent symptom (19.4%), followed by shortness of breath (5.5%), and wheezing (3.6%). Adjusted analyses showed an exposure-response relationship between increasing deployment duration and likelihood of coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing in the pre-capping period. A similar pattern was observed in the post-capping period for coughing and wheezing. Adjusted analyses revealed increased PRs for coughing (PR=1.92), shortness of breath (PR=2.60), and wheezing (PR=2.68) for any oil exposure. Increasing frequency of inhalation of oil was associated with increased likelihood of all three respiratory symptoms. A similar pattern was observed for contact with oil dispersants for coughing and shortness of breath. The combination of both oil and oil dispersants presented associations that were much greater in magnitude than oil alone for coughing (PR=2.72), shortness of breath (PR=4.65), and wheezing (PR=5.06). CONCLUSIONS:Results from the present study suggested strong relationships between oil and oil dispersant exposures and acute respiratory symptoms among disaster responders. Future prospective studies will be needed to confirm these findings.
Project description:The ?in situ burning" of trapped crude oil on the surface of Gulf waters during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill released numerous pollutants, including combustion-generated particulate matter (PM). Limited information is available on the respiratory impact of inhaled in situ burned oil sail particulate matter (OSPM). Here we utilized PM collected from in situ burn plumes of the DWH oil spill to study the acute effects of exposure to OSPM on pulmonary health. OSPM caused dose-and time-dependent cytotoxicity and generated reactive oxygen species and superoxide radicals in vitro. Additionally, mice exposed to OSPM exhibited significant decreases in body weight gain, systemic oxidative stress in the form of increased serum 8-isoprostane (8-IP) levels, and airway inflammation in the form of increased macrophages and eosinophils in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. Further, in a mouse model of allergic asthma, OSPM caused increased T helper 2 cells (Th2), peribronchiolar inflammation, and increased airway mucus production. These findings demonstrate that acute exposure to OSPM results in pulmonary inflammation and alteration of innate/adaptive immune responses in mice and highlight potential respiratory effects associated with cleaning up an oil spill.
Project description:Managing oil spill residues washing onto sandy beaches is a common worldwide environmental problem. In this study, we have analyzed the first-arrival oil spill residues collected from two Gulf of Mexico (GOM) beach systems following two recent oil spills: the 2014 Galveston Bay (GB) oil spill, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. This is the first study to provide field observations and chemical characterization data for the 2014 GB oil spill. Here we compare the physical and chemical characteristics of GB oil spill samples with DWH oil spill samples and present their similarities and differences. Our field observations indicate that both oil spills had similar shoreline deposition patterns; however, their physical and chemical characteristics differed considerably. We highlight these differences, discuss their implications, and interpret GB data in light of lessons learned from previously published DWH oil spill studies. These analyses are further used to assess the long-term fate of GB oil spill residues and their potential environmental impacts.
Project description:Blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, 1896, are ubiquitous along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the USA. These organisms play an integral role in the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), where not only are they a keystone species, but are also socioeconomically important. The survival of embryonated eggs is necessary to ensure adequate recruitment into the next generation. Because the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DWH) occurred during the peak of the blue crab spawning season, the incident likely impacted blue crab embryos. In order to assess the effect of oil on embryonic growth and development, we collected embryonated eggs from seven different female blue crabs from the GOM throughout the spawning season and exposed them to an oil concentration of 500 ppb (the approximate concentration of oil at the surface water near the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig). Exposure to oil at this concentration caused a significantly larger proportion of prezoeae vs. zoeae to hatch from embryonated eggs in experiments lasting longer than 4 days. Exposure to oil did not significantly affect overall survival or development rate. The prezoeal stage is a little-studied stage of blue crab development. Though it may or may not be a normal stage of development, this stage has been found to occur in suboptimal conditions and has lower survival than zoeal stages. The larger proportion of prezoeae following prolonged exposure to oil thus indicates that crude oil at concentrations likely to be experienced by crabs after the DWH spill negatively impacted the development of blue crab embryos. In addition to providing insight into the effects of the DWH, this study sheds light on embryonic development in blue crabs, a critical, but poorly investigated phase of this important species' life cycle.
Project description:Symbiotic associations can be disrupted by disturbance or by changing environmental conditions. Endophytes are fungal and bacterial symbionts of plants that can affect performance. As in more widely known symbioses, acute or chronic stressor exposure might trigger disassociation of endophytes from host plants. We tested this hypothesis by examining the effects of oil exposure following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill on endophyte diversity and abundance in Spartina alterniflora - the foundational plant in northern Gulf coast salt marshes affected by the spill. We compared bacterial and fungal endophytes isolated from plants in reference areas to isolates from plants collected in areas with residual oil that has persisted for more than three years after the DWH spill. DNA sequence-based estimates showed that oil exposure shifted endophyte diversity and community structure. Plants from oiled areas exhibited near total loss of leaf fungal endophytes. Root fungal endophytes exhibited a more modest decline and little change was observed in endophytic bacterial diversity or abundance, though a shift towards hydrocarbon metabolizers was found in plants from oiled sites. These results show that plant-endophyte symbioses can be disrupted by stressor exposure, and indicate that symbiont community disassembly in marsh plants is an enduring outcome of the DWH spill.
Project description:INTRODUCTION:The 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) disaster exposed tens of thousands of oil spill response and cleanup (OSRC) workers to hydrocarbons and other hazardous chemicals. Some hydrocarbons, such as toluene and hexane, have been found to have acute adverse effects on the central nervous system in occupational settings. However, no studies have examined the association between oil spill exposures and neurobehavioral function. METHODS:We used data from the Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study, a cohort of adults who worked on the DWH response and cleanup. Total hydrocarbon (THC) exposure attributed to oil spill cleanup work was estimated from a job-exposure matrix linking air measurement data to detailed cleanup work histories. Participants were also categorized into 6 job categories, or OSRC classes, based on their activity with the highest exposure. Neurobehavioral performance was assessed at a clinical exam 4-6 years after the spill. We used multivariable linear regression to evaluate relationships of ordinal THC levels and OSRC classes with 16 neurobehavioral outcomes. RESULTS:We found limited evidence of associations between THC levels or OSRC classes and decreased neurobehavioral function, including attention, memory, and executive function. Workers exposed to ?3?ppm THC scored significantly worse (difference<sub>1.0-2.9ppm</sub>?=?-0.39, 95% confidence interval (CI)?=?-0.74, -0.04) than workers exposed to <0.30?ppm THC for the digit span forward count test. There was also a possible threshold effect above 1?ppm THC for symbol digit test total errors (difference<sub>1.0-2.9ppm</sub>?=?-0.56 (95% CI?=?-1.13, -0.003), difference<sub>?3.0ppm</sub>?=?-0.55 (95% CI?=?-1.20, 0.10)). Associations appeared to be stronger in men than in women. A summary latency measure suggested an association between more highly exposed jobs (especially support of operations workers) and decreased neurobehavioral function. CONCLUSION:OSRC-related exposures were associated with modest decreases in neurobehavioral function, especially attention, memory, and executive function.
Project description:Marine subsurface environments such as deep-sea sediments, house abundant and diverse microbial communities that are believed to influence large-scale geochemical processes. These processes include the biotransformation and mineralization of numerous petroleum constituents. Thus, microbial communities in the Gulf of Mexico are thought to be responsible for the intrinsic bioremediation of crude oil released by the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. While hydrocarbon contamination is known to enrich for aerobic, oil-degrading bacteria in deep-seawater habitats, relatively little is known about the response of communities in deep-sea sediments, where low oxygen levels may hinder such a response. Here, we examined the hypothesis that increased hydrocarbon exposure results in an altered sediment microbial community structure that reflects the prospects for oil biodegradation under the prevailing conditions. We explore this hypothesis using metagenomic analysis and metabolite profiling of deep-sea sediment samples following the DWH oil spill. The presence of aerobic microbial communities and associated functional genes was consistent among all samples, whereas, a greater number of Deltaproteobacteria and anaerobic functional genes were found in sediments closest to the DWH blowout site. Metabolite profiling also revealed a greater number of putative metabolites in sediments surrounding the blowout zone relative to a background site located 127 km away. The mass spectral analysis of the putative metabolites revealed that alkylsuccinates remained below detection levels, but a homologous series of benzylsuccinates (with carbon chain lengths from 5 to 10) could be detected. Our findings suggest that increased exposure to hydrocarbons enriches for Deltaproteobacteria, which are known to be capable of anaerobic hydrocarbon metabolism. We also provide evidence for an active microbial community metabolizing aromatic hydrocarbons in deep-sea sediments of the Gulf of Mexico.
Project description:Documentation of the near- and long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, one of the largest environmental disasters in US history, is still ongoing. We used a novel before-after-control-impact analysis to test the hypothesis that average body size of intertidal populations of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) inhabiting impacted areas in Louisiana decreased due to increased stress/mortality related to the oil spill. Time-averaged death assemblages of oysters were used to establish a pre-spill baseline of body-size structure for four impacted and four control locations along a 350 km stretch of Louisiana's coastline. Post-spill body sizes were then measured from live oysters at each site in order to evaluate the differences in body size between oiled (i.e. impact) and unoiled (i.e. control) locations before and after the spill. Our results indicate that average body size of oysters remained relatively unchanged after the oil spill. There were also no temporal patterns in temperature, salinity or disease prevalence that could have explained our results. Together, these findings suggest that oysters either recovered rapidly following the immediate impact of the DWH oil spill, or that its impact was not severe enough to influence short-term population dynamics of the oyster beds.
Project description:Although petroleum hydrocarbons discharged from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) blowout were shown to have a pronounced impact on indigenous microbial communities in the Gulf of Mexico, effects on nearshore or coastal ecosystems remain understudied. This study investigated the successional patterns of functional and taxonomic diversity for over 1 year after the DWH oil was deposited on Pensacola Beach sands (FL, USA), using metagenomic and 16S rRNA gene amplicon techniques. Gamma- and Alphaproteobacteria were enriched in oiled sediments, in corroboration of previous studies. In contrast to previous studies, we observed an increase in the functional diversity of the community in response to oil contamination and a functional transition from generalist populations within 4 months after oil came ashore to specialists a year later, when oil was undetectable. At the latter time point, a typical beach community had reestablished that showed little to no evidence of oil hydrocarbon degradation potential, was enriched in archaeal taxa known to be sensitive to xenobiotics, but differed significantly from the community before the oil spill. Further, a clear succession pattern was observed, where early responders to oil contamination, likely degrading aliphatic hydrocarbons, were replaced after 3 months by populations capable of aromatic hydrocarbon decomposition. Collectively, our results advance the understanding of how natural benthic microbial communities respond to crude oil perturbation, supporting the specialization-disturbance hypothesis; that is, the expectation that disturbance favors generalists, while providing (microbial) indicator species and genes for the chemical evolution of oil hydrocarbons during degradation and weathering.