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Environmental Factor, April 2012

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GuLF STUDY marks recruitment milestone

Dale Sandler, Ph.D.

Sandler and her team have held a string of community meetings in towns affected by the oil spill, in conjunction with media tours to raise awareness of the GuLF STUDY among people in the region. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Nearly two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 10,000 cleanup workers and volunteers have enrolled in the Gulf Long-term Follow-up (GuLF) STUDY.

The study is a national effort conducted by NIEHS to determine if the oil spill led to physical or mental health problems. Recruitment continues, with the goal of reaching the GuLF STUDY’s target goal of 55,000 participants, which would make it the largest health study of its kind.

“Ten thousand people have stepped forward to help find answers for their community and for the health concerns that linger after the oil spill,” said Dale Sandler, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch and principal investigator of the study. “I encourage anyone who helped in the cleanup effort to make the call today to enroll in the GuLF STUDY. We want to hear everyone’s story. Everyone is important to this study.” 

For more information, people can call the toll-free number at 1-855-NIH-GULF (1-855-644-4853) or visit the GuLF STUDY website at

A continuing presence on the front lines of the oil spill

NIEHS was in the Gulf at the beginning of the oil disaster that occurred on April 20, 2010, and offered safety training to more than 150,000 cleanup workers. Now, some of these workers have concerns about their health as a result of participating in the cleanup. The GuLF STUDY was designed to answer some of these questions and will generate important data that may help guide policy decisions on health care and services in the Gulf region. Findings may also influence responses to future oil spills.

The GuLF STUDY staff reached out to the 150,000 people who took the cleanup worker safety training, but volunteers have been hard to find. Many have moved to new residences or changed telephone numbers, so the study has been using a range of approaches to invite people to join the study, including billboards, radio and TV, Facebook and Twitter, and community meetings. Individuals may be eligible for the study if they:

  • Are at least 21 years old
  • Did oil spill cleanup work for at least one day
  • Supported the cleanup effort in some way or completed oil spill worker training

When volunteers join the GuLF STUDY, they are asked to complete a survey over the telephone. Most participants will also get a medical exam at home, and provide blood, urine, and other samples. When the medical visit is complete, participants will receive a gift card worth $50. 

“We are grateful to have the support of more than 100 community and professional groups across the Gulf that represent workers who believe in the GuLF STUDY and who have endorsed it,” said Sandler. “The study was developed to make participation as easy and convenient as possible and participation is confidential. We protect the identity of every participant.”

GuLF STUDY is a registered trademark, held by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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