Assessing Exposures from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response and Clean-up

Patricia Stewart, Caroline P. Groth, Tran B. Huynh, Melanie Gorman Ng, Gregory C. Pratt, Susan F. Arnold, Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Sudipto Banerjee, John W. Cherrie, Kate Christenbury, Richard K. Kwok, Aaron Blair, Lawrence S. Engel, Dale P. Sandler, Mark R. Stenzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The GuLF Study is investigating adverse health effects from work on the response and clean-up after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil release. An essential and necessary component of that study was the exposure assessment. Bayesian statistical methods and over 135 000 measurements of total hydrocarbons (THC), benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, and n-hexane (BTEX-H) were used to estimate inhalation exposures to these chemicals for >3400 exposure groups (EGs) formed from three exposure determinants: job/activity/task, location, and time period. Recognized deterministic models were used to estimate airborne exposures to particulate matter sized 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5) and dispersant aerosols and vapors. Dermal exposures were estimated for these same oil-related substances using a model modified especially for this study from a previously published model. Exposures to oil mist were assessed using professional judgment. Estimated daily THC arithmetic means (AMs) were in the low ppm range (<25 ppm), whereas BTEX-H exposures estimates were generally <1000 ppb. Potential 1-h PM2.5 air concentrations experienced by some workers may have been as high as 550 μg m-3. Dispersant aerosol air concentrations were very low (maximum predicted 1-h concentrations were generally <50 μg m-3), but vapor concentrations may have exceeded occupational exposure excursion guidelines for 2-butoxyethanol under certain circumstances. The daily AMs of dermal exposure estimates showed large contrasts among the study participants. The estimates are being used to evaluate exposure-response relationships in the GuLF Study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)I3-I22
JournalAnnals of work exposures and health
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • Deepwater Horizon
  • PM
  • dispersant
  • exposure assessment
  • total hydrocarbons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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