Since it began its data collection in March 2011, the Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up (GuLF) study — a $25 million, 10-year project under the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — has gathered more than 29,000 participants to study the health implications of handling (and exposure to) oil, dispersants and other chemicals in the cleanup operations following the BP oil disaster.
The study closes its enrollment period Dec. 31. Cleanup and rig workers, or people who received cleanup training or were assigned to the Gulf following the disaster, are encouraged to participate to help "get a full picture of what happened during the oil spill and understand how it affected people's health," said Dr. Dale Sandler, who heads the study. It aims to recruit 55,000 participants. "If we can get to 35,000 or 40,000, we'd be a tremendous success," Sandler says. The study already is the largest of its kind.
As Sandler told Gambit last year, the project includes "looking at respiratory effects and nonspecific complaints — dizziness and headaches," but it's also interested in long-term issues such as chronic diseases and cancer. Last week, Sandler said she hopes the findings "will provide information on how oil spills impact physical and mental health," including depression, stress and anxiety.
The study begins with a telephone interview, followed by a home visit from a trained medical examiner who takes biological samples and tests lung function. Participants are given a $50 gift card. If necessary, participants are referred to a free or low-cost physician. So far, Sandler says, 450 people were referred to a doctor for elevated blood pressure or for poor lung function. Some participants have had consultations with practitioners who specialize in dealing with chemical exposure, she said.
For more information, see the study's website (www.gulfstudy.nih.gov) or call 1-855-644-4853.
— ALEX WOODWARD