Incidence of chronic respiratory conditions among oil spill responders: Five years of follow-up in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Coast Guard Cohort study
Over ten years after the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, our understanding of long term respiratory health risks associated with oil spill response exposures is limited. We conducted a prospective analysis in a cohort of U.S. Coast Guard personnel with universal military healthcare.
For all active duty cohort members (N = 45,193) in the DWH Oil Spill Coast Guard Cohort Study we obtained medical encounter data from October 01, 2007 to September 30, 2015 (i.e., ~2.5 years pre-spill; ~5.5 years post-spill). We used Cox Proportional Hazards regressions to calculate adjusted hazard ratios (aHR), comparing risks for incident respiratory conditions/symptoms (2010–2015) for: responders vs. non-responders; responders reporting crude oil exposure, any inhalation of crude oil vapors, and being in the vicinity of burning crude oil versus responders without those exposures. We also evaluated self-reported crude oil and oil dispersant exposures, combined. Within-responder comparisons were adjusted for age, sex, and smoking.
While elevated aHRs for responder/non-responder comparisons were generally weak, within-responder comparisons showed stronger risks with exposure to crude oil. Notably, for responders reporting exposure to crude oil via inhalation, there were elevated risks for all sinusitis (aHR = 1.48; 95%CI, 1.06–2.06), unspecified chronic sinusitis (aHR = 1.55; 95%CI, 1.08–2.22), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other allied conditions (aHR = 1.43; 95%CI, 1.00–2.06), and dyspnea and respiratory abnormalities (aHR = 1.29; 95%CI, 1.00–1.67); there was a suggestion of elevated risk for diseases classified as asthma and reactive airway diseases (aHR = 1.18; 95%CI, 0.98–1.41), including the specific condition, asthma (aHR = 1.35; 95%CI, 0.80–2.27), the symptom, shortness of breath (aHR = 1.50; 95%CI, 0.89–2.54), and the overall classification of chronic respiratory conditions (aHR = 1.18; 95%CI, 0.98–1.43). Exposure to both crude oil and dispersant was positively associated with elevated risk for shortness of breath (HR = 2.24; 95%CI, 1.09–4.64).
Among active duty Coast Guard personnel, oil spill clean-up exposures were associated with moderately increased risk for longer term respiratory conditions.