Development of a total hydrocarbon ordinal job-exposure matrix for workers responding to the Deepwater Horizon disaster: The GuLF STUDY

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2018 May;28(3):223-230. doi: 10.1038/jes.2017.16. Epub 2017 Oct 18.


The GuLF STUDY is a cohort study investigating the health of workers who responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The objective of this effort was to develop an ordinal job-exposure matrix (JEM) of airborne total hydrocarbons (THC), dispersants, and particulates to estimate study participants' exposures. Information was collected on participants' spill-related tasks. A JEM of exposure groups (EGs) was developed from tasks and THC air measurements taken during and after the spill using relevant exposure determinants. THC arithmetic means were developed for the EGs, assigned ordinal values, and linked to the participants using determinants from the questionnaire. Different approaches were taken for combining exposures across EGs. EGs for dispersants and particulates were based on questionnaire responses. Considerable differences in THC exposure levels were found among EGs. Based on the maximum THC level participants experienced across any job held, ∼14% of the subjects were identified in the highest exposure category. Approximately 10% of the cohort was exposed to dispersants or particulates. Considerable exposure differences were found across the various EGs, facilitating investigation of exposure-response relationships. The JEM is flexible to allow for different assumptions about several possibly relevant exposure metrics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disasters
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Petroleum Pollution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Particulate Matter