Created by on 06/01/2011

On May 26th, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) partnered with the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research to host a Capitol Hill briefing entitled, “Advancing Discovery: Assessing the Health Impacts of the Gulf Oil Spill.” The event was the latest installment in an ongoing series of activities to highlight how the nation’s investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is fostering scientific discoveries to enhance the health and well-being of the American people. NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) recently launched the largest study of its kind to examine how oil spills and exposure to crude oil and dispersants are affecting the health and quality of life of the cleanup workers and volunteers who responded to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

A standing-room only crowd listened as Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, chairman of FASEB’s Membership Committee and an assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Washington Medical Center, welcomed congressional staff and individuals from medical research and environmental advocacy organizations. Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and David Price (D-NC) also gave opening remarks commending NIH for their efforts to learn from the oil spill in order to protect other communities in the future. Price also expressed frustration that NIH could face severe budget constraints in fiscal year 2012 if the overall funding levels proposed by the House Appropriations Committee are approved by Congress.
NIEHS Director, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, provided an overview of the Gulf Long-Term Follow-up Study, which is underway to assess both the short and long-term health effects associated with exposure to the Deepwater Horizon spill. 55,000 clean-up workers and volunteers from the Gulf Coast states are scheduled to be enrolled in the study. Over time the research will generate important data that may help inform policy decisions on health care and health services in the Gulf region. Birnbaum also described the NIEHS Worker Education Training Program (WETP) that provides specialized instruction for individuals who respond to natural disasters and assist with hazardous waste clean-up. Within a few days of the spill, WETP printed and distributed 5,000 booklets in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese to clean-up workers in the Gulf to educate them about oil spill exposures, hazards, and risks. Dr. Birnbaum was followed by Dr. Kim Anderson, professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at Oregon State University, who discussed her research on efforts to study the long-term effects of oil spills. Materials from the briefing are available on the Ad Hoc Group’s website.
Dr. Jeff Schwartz, Chair of the FASEB Membership Committee, introduces Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and David Price (D-NC). 
NIEHS Director, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, describes research underway at NIH to study how exposure to crude oil and chemical dispersants is affecting the health of the clean-up workers who responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.