News Roundup

Jul 7 2011

Published: Thursday, July 07, 2011, 12:18 PM
By Bill Barrow, The Times-Picayune

Louisiana State University and Tulane University are among four Gulf coast universities to share a $25.2 million, five-year federal grant to study various health effects from the 2010 oil spill and subsequent cleanup, with a focus on women and children.
An LSU Health Sciences Center team led by Edward Trapido will receive $3.5 million from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to track the long-term health effects in 8,000 residents in seven parishes: St. Bernard, Orleans, Plaquemines, Jefferson, Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Mary. The goal is for the subjects to include 4,000 women and 2,000 children.

A Tulane research consortium led by Dr. Maureen Lichtveld will receive $6.5 million to examine potential health consequences in pregnant women and women of reproductive age. Researchers plan to work through Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation, Bayou Interfaith Sharing Community Organizing and Women Infant and Children Clinics to reach subjects in six parishes: Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St Bernard and Terrebonne.

Researchers at the University of Florida and the Galveston branch of the University of Texas also will conduct studies in their respective regions.

International oil giant BP put up $3.2 million for the study, though the NIEHS said the firm is not involved in designing the studies or collective and interpreting the data.
The work will run alongside the National Institute of Health’s Gulf Long-term Follow-up (GuLF) Study, an $18 million-plus effort billed as the most expansive post-spill study in history. That study focuses on oil field and clean-up workers who had direct exposure to the oil and dispersants. In contrast, the university-centered studies are directed to the general population.

Some Gulf coast residents, including scientists and health advocates, were critical of NIH when it initially announced the GuLF study because it ignored the general population that may not have had direct exposure to oil or dispersants but whose environments could still be affected.

“Pregnant women are always a population of concern when there are environmental exposures as the developing fetus may be vulnerable to even small doses of contaminants,” Lichtveld says. “To our knowledge, this is also the first study to examine maternal stress and anxiety related to a major oil spill and the associated effects on birth outcomes, fetal health and family planning behavior.”

At LSU, Trapido said, “We are interested in what women living in the most affected parishes experienced in terms of exposure to oil and its clean-up, with the goal of monitoring the physical, behavioral, social, and mental health effects over time.”
He continued, “We have focused on women and their children, because issues related to food choices, family and neighborhood interactions, pregnancy concerns, and family budgets often are dealt with by women in these parishes.”

The studies begin amid a cacophony of claims and counter-claims about what the public health and environmental effects of the spill and cleanup. The existing body of science is riddled with questions.
There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence of sick workers and Gulf coast residents complaining of maladies that generally can be associated with organic compounds found in crude oil. Some scientists and physicians have weighed in with tests on samples of seafood, human blood and Gulf Coast soil that show elevated levels of some of the same toxins.

Yet state governments, the FDA and the seafood industry all vouch for the safety of the seafood supply and the beach front. President Barack Obama’s National Oil Spill Commission acknowledged in its final report, released in January, only that health issues and the perception of inadequate government action are matters of concern.
For more information about the LSUHSC Gulf Oil Spill study, call (504) 568-5769 or send an e-mail to gulfoilspill@lsuhsc.edu. Information on the NIEHS response to the spill can be found online at www.niehs.nih.gov.

Bill Barrow can be reached at bbarrow@timespicayune.com.

© 2011 NOLA.com. All rights reserved.

Source: The Times Picayune

Filed under: BP Oil Disaster

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