12 August 2010

Health impacts of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: preliminary findings



In June this year, the US Institute of Medicine convened a workshop in New Orleans that brought together 350 federal, state and local government officials, expert scientists, academic leaders, policy experts, health care providers, public health advocates, community representatives, residents and others to examine options for measuring the Gulf oil spill's potential health effects on different communities.

There were seven main themes that emerged from the workshop:
  • Complexity
    Assessing the effects on human health of oil spills and response activities is complex.
  • Multiple dimensions
    Human health is multidimensional and includes physical, psychological, and socioeconomic dimensions.
  • Uncertainty
    Information about the specific hazards related to the Gulf oil spill and the range of potential acute and long-term effects of oil spills on human health is incomplete and leads to uncertainty.
  • Immediacy
    Understanding the current state of knowledge can guide immediate actions to mitigate known risks and to fill existing knowledge gaps.
  • Community engagement
    Community involvement and collaboration are essential when designing surveillance systems, related research activities, and effective risk communication strategies.
  • Coordination
    Coordination can strengthen existing and developing surveillance and monitoring systems.
  • Commitment
    Long-term surveillance and related research activities are critical to identifying acute, chronic, and long-term health effects of oil spills.

Check out the full workshop findings online at the National Academies photo link above, download  a PDF of the summary, or buy a hard copy or PDF of the whole workshop.