The GuLF STUDY: A Prospective Study of Persons Involved in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response and Clean-Up

Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Apr;125(4):570-578. doi: 10.1289/EHP715. Epub 2017 Mar 31.


Background: The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster led to the largest ever marine oil spill. Individuals who worked on the spill were exposed to toxicants and stressors that could lead to adverse effects.

Objectives: The GuLF STUDY was designed to investigate relationships between oil spill exposures and multiple potential physical and mental health effects.

Methods: Participants were recruited by telephone from lists of individuals who worked on the oil spill response and clean-up or received safety training. Enrollment interviews between 2011 and 2013 collected information about spill-related activities, demographics, lifestyle, and health. Exposure measurements taken during the oil spill were used with questionnaire responses to characterize oil exposures of participants. Participants from Gulf states completed a home visit in which biological and environmental samples, anthropometric and clinical measurements, and additional health and lifestyle information were collected. Participants are being followed for changes in health status.

Results: Thirty-two thousand six hundred eight individuals enrolled in the cohort, and 11,193 completed a home visit. Most were young (56.2% ≤ 45 years of age), male (80.8%), lived in a Gulf state (82.3%), and worked at least 1 day on the oil spill (76.5%). Workers were involved in response (18.0%), support operations (17.5%), clean-up on water (17.4%) or land (14.6%), decontamination (14.3%), and administrative support (18.3%). Using an ordinal job exposure matrix, 45% had maximum daily total hydrocarbon exposure levels ≥ 1.0 ppm.

Conclusions: The GuLF STUDY provides a unique opportunity to study potential adverse health effects from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Disasters*
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Petroleum Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies