Some participants thought that the GuLF study neglected a few study areas, such as the effects of the oil spill on pregnant women and the spill’s psychosocial effects. Twenty percent of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup workers were women, some of whom might have been pregnant. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to gather information on the health effects of an oil spill on pregnancy outcomes, but the study does not plan to include any pregnant workers until the postpartum period, noted Roberta Ness.
Lawrence Engel responded that assessing such health effects is not feasible, given the time constraints of the study and its main objective of assessing the health characteristics of the cohort as a whole. He suggested that attempts will be made to involve other researchers to address this important issue, however. Dale Sandler added that the gathering of information on reproductive health is an opportunity for creating partnerships.
Maureen Lichtveld suggested that more psychosocial measures be collected from the study participants and that mental health be more explicitly listed as a potential health risk, especially because studies of other disasters have shown mental and behavioral health issues to be major outcomes. A few participants added that it would be helpful to assess such mental health outcomes in subpopulations, such as those at higher risk for developing mental health complications because of previous traumas and underlying depression.
National Academies Press (US), Washington (DC)
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review the Federal Response to the Health Effects Associated with the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill; Goldman L, Mitchell A, Patlak M, editors. Review of the Proposal for the Gulf Long-Term Follow-Up Study: Highlights from the September 2010 Workshop. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010. Additional Health Endpoints for Study.