Association of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response and Cleanup Work With Risk of Developing Hypertension

Richard K. Kwok, W. Braxton Jackson, Matthew D. Curry, Patricia A. Stewart, John A. Mcgrath, Mark Stenzel, Tran B. Huynh, Caroline P. Groth, Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Sudipto Banerjee, Gregory C. Pratt, Aubrey K. Miller, Xian Zhang, Lawrence S. Engel, Dale P. Sandler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Exposure to hydrocarbons, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and other chemicals from the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon disaster may be associated with increased blood pressure and newly detected hypertension among oil spill response and cleanup workers. Objective: To determine whether participation in cleanup activities following the disaster was associated with increased risk of developing hypertension. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study was conducted via telephone interviews and in-person home exams. Participants were 6846 adults who had worked on the oil spill cleanup (workers) and 1505 others who had completed required safety training but did not do cleanup work (nonworkers). Eligible participants did not have diagnosed hypertension at the time of the oil spill. Statistical analyses were performed from June 2018 to December 2021. Exposures: Engagement in cleanup activities following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, job classes, quintiles of cumulative total hydrocarbons exposure level, potential exposure to burning or flaring oil, and estimated PM2.5were examined. Main Outcomes and Measures: Systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements were collected during home exams from 2011 to 2013 using automated oscillometric monitors. Newly detected hypertension was defined as antihypertensive medication use or elevated blood pressure since the spill. Log binomial regression was used to calculate prevalence ratios (PR) and 95% CIs for associations between cleanup exposures and hypertension. Multivariable linear regression was used to estimate exposure effects on continuous blood pressure levels. Results: Of 8351 participants included in this study, 6484 (77.6%) were male, 517 (6.2%) were Hispanic, 2859 (34.2%) were non-Hispanic Black, and 4418 (52.9%) were non-Hispanic White; the mean (SD) age was 41.9 (12.5) years at enrollment. Among workers, the prevalence of newly detected hypertension was elevated in all quintiles (Q) of cumulative total hydrocarbons above the first quintile (PR for Q3, 1.29 [95% CI, 1.13-1.46], PR for Q4, 1.25 [95% CI, 1.10-1.43], and PR for Q5, 1.31 [95% CI, 1.15-1.50]). Both exposure to burning and/or flaring oil and gas (PR, 1.16 [95% CI, 1.02-1.33]) and PM2.5from burning (PR, 1.26 [95% CI, 0.89-1.71]) for the highest exposure category were associated with increased risk of newly detected hypertension, as were several types of oil spill work including cleanup on water (PR, 1.34 [95% CI, 1.08-1.66]) and response work (PR, 1.51 [95% CI, 1.20-1.90]). Conclusions and Relevance: Oil spill exposures were associated with newly detected hypertension after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere220108
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 23 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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