Acute and longer-term cardiovascular conditions in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Coast Guard Cohort

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In 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) led a clean-up response to the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. Human studies evaluating acute and longer-term cardiovascular conditions associated with oil spill-related exposures are sparse. Thus, we aimed to investigate prevalent and incident cardiovascular symptoms/conditions in the DHW Oil Spill Coast Guard Cohort.


Self-reported oil spill exposures and cardiovascular symptoms were ascertained from post-deployment surveys (n = 4,885). For all active-duty cohort members (n = 45,193), prospective cardiovascular outcomes were classified via International Classification of Diseases, 9th Edition from military health encounter records up to 5.5 years post-DWH. We used log-binomial regression to calculate adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) in the cross-sectional analyses and Cox Proportional Hazards regression to calculate adjusted hazard ratios (aHR) and 95% CIs for incident cardiovascular diagnoses during 2010–2015 and stratifying by earlier (2010–2012) and later (2013–2015) time periods.


Prevalence of chest pain was associated with increasing levels of crude oil exposure via inhalation (aPRhigh vs. none = 2.00, 95% CI = 1.16–3.42, p-trend = 0.03) and direct skin contact (aPRhigh vs. none = 2.72, 95% CI = 1.30–5.16, p-trend = 0.03). Similar associations were observed for sudden heartbeat changes and for being in the vicinity of burning oil exposure. In prospective analyses, responders (vs. non-responders) had an elevated risk for mitral valve disorders during 2013–2015 (aHR = 2.12, 95% CI = 1.15–3.90). Responders reporting ever (vs. never) crude oil inhalation exposure were at increased risk for essential hypertension, particularly benign essential hypertension during 2010–2012 (aHR = 2.00, 95% CI = 1.08–3.69). Responders with crude oil inhalation exposure also had an elevated risk for palpitations during 2013–2015 (aHR = 2.54, 95% CI = 1.36–4.74). Cardiovascular symptoms/conditions aPR and aHR estimates were generally stronger among responders reporting exposure to both crude oil and oil dispersants than among those reporting neither.


In this large study of the DWH oil spill USCG responders, self-reported spill clean-up exposures were associated with acute and longer-term cardiovascular symptoms/conditions.