The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and physical health among adult women in southern Louisiana: The Women and Their Children’s Health (WaTCH) study

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BACKGROUND: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (DHOS) is the largest oil spill in U.S. history, negatively impacting Gulf Coast residents and the surrounding ecosystem. To date, no studies have been published concerning physical health outcomes associated with the DHOS in the general community. OBJECTIVES: To characterize individual DHOS exposure using survey data and to examine the association between DHOS exposure and physical health. METHODS: Baseline data from 2,126 adult women residing in Southern Louisiana and enrolled in the Women and Their Children's Health study were analyzed. Exploratory factor analysis was used to characterize DHOS exposure. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for the associations between DHOS exposure and physical health symptoms were estimated using multivariate logistic regression. RESULTS: A two factor solution was identified as the best fit for DHOS exposure: physical/environmental exposure and economic exposure. High physical/environmental exposure was significantly associated with all of the physical health symptoms, with the strongest associations for burning in nose, throat or lungs (OR = 4.73; 95% CI: 3.10, 7.22); sore throat (OR = 4.66; 95% CI: 2.89, 7.51); dizziness (OR = 4.21; 95% CI: 2.69, 6.58); and wheezing (OR = 4.20; 95% CI: 2.86, 6.17). Women who had high economic exposure were significantly more likely to report wheezing (OR = 1.92; 95% CI: 1.32, 2.79); headaches (OR = 1.81; 95% CI: 1.41, 2.58); watery, burning, itchy eyes (OR = 1.61; 95% CI: 1.20, 2.16); and stuffy, itchy, runny nose (OR = 1.56; 95% CI: 1.16, 2.08). CONCLUSIONS: Among Southern Louisiana women, both physical/environmental and economic exposure to the DHOS was associated with an increase in self-reported physical health outcomes. Additional longitudinal studies of this unique cohort are needed to elucidate the impact of the DHOS on short and long-term human health.




Peres, L. C., Trapido, E., Rung, A. L., Harrington, D. J., Oral, E., Fang, Z., … Peters, E. S. (2016). The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and physical health among adult women in southern Louisiana: The Women and Their Children’s Health (WaTCH) study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(8), 1208–1213.

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