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DEEPWATER HORIZON RESPONSE

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation

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On May 28, 2010, BP requested a health hazard evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response workers. NIOSH investigators completed exposure monitoring, observational assessments, health surveys, and focus groups for a variety of work sites and work activities. The findings were released in a series of nine interim reports for which links are provided below. The exposure monitoring and health survey data were released in spreadsheet format. NIOSH is preparing a final report that pulls together the results from all the health hazard evaluation activities.

Final Report

Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers
This final report summarizes evaluations made during the course of the offshore and onshore HHE investigations and describes the conditions and characteristics encountered during the event. Overarching conclusions and recommendations drawing from the entirety of the HHE investigations are also presented.

Interim Reports

All interim reports were reissued December 2012. The front and back covers, lead and contributing authors, and acknowledgments were added to the original interim reports.

Interim Report 9: Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers [PDF - 1542 KB]
HETA 20100115
December 7, 2010
Summary of Interim Report #9 [PDF - 520 KB]

Interim Report 8: Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers [PDF - 1794 KB]
HETA 20100129
October 26, 2010
Summary of Interim Report #8 [PDF - 810 KB]

Interim Report 7: Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers [PDF - 1606 KB]
HETA 20100115
October 14, 2010
Summary of Interim Report #7 [PDF - 746 KB]

Interim Report 6: Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers [PDF - 1387 KB]
HETA 20100115
September 13, 2010
Summary of Interim Report #6 [PDF - 960 KB]

Interim Report 5: Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers [PDF - 1419 KB]
HETA 20100115
August 27, 2010
Summary of Interim Report #5 [PDF - 1.07 MB]

Interim Report 4: Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers [PDF - 2094 KB]
HETA 20100115
August 11, 2010
Summary of Interim Report #4 [PDF - 1.03 MB]

Interim Report 3: Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers [PDF - 1886 KB]
HETA 20100115
July 22, 2010
Summary of Interim Report #3 [PDF - 692 KB]

Interim Report 2: Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers [PDF - 1914 KB]
HETA 20100115
July 12, 2010
Summary of Interim Report #2 [PDF - 684 KB]

Interim Report 1: Health Hazard Evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response Workers [PDF - 1917 KB]
HETA 20100115
June 23, 2010
Summary of Interim Report #1 [PDF - 1.05 MB]

For more information on the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Program, visit the NIOSH web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/default.html

Exposure and Health Survey Data

The spreadsheet is available to view or to download by right clicking (Option clicking on Macintosh™ systems).

HHE Exposure Monitoring Data [Microsoft Excel 2003 - 430kb]

HHE Health Survey Data – Offshore Activities [Microsoft Excel 2003 - 859kb]

HHE Health and Observational Survey Data–Onshore Activities [Microsoft Excel 2003 - 5,624kb LARGE FILE! Please allow time to download]

Worker pressure washing contaminated booms, contaminated booms laid out for cleaning
August 27, 2010

On May 28, 2010, BP requested a health hazard evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response workers. The fifth in a series of interim reports from this health hazard evaluation was issued August 26, 2010. In this fifth interim report, NIOSH presents the findings of the evaluations of wildlife cleaning and rehabilitation centers. NIOSH investigators were organized in teams, with one investigator typically focused on exposure assessment and site characterization and the other focused on assessing health symptoms among the workers at sites in Louisiana (Fort Jackson and Grand Isle), Alabama (Theodore), Florida (Pensacola), and Mississippi (Gulfport). In these evaluations NIOSH found that:

  • The five work sites visited for this evaluation all had programs in place to reduce potential occupational hazards in wildlife cleaning work.
  • Wildlife cleaning and rehabilitation workers had several types of occupational health concerns. Some were unique to wildlife cleaning and rehabilitation work and some were common to other types of on-shore response work.
  • Fifty-four workers completed a health survey. More injuries and symptoms were reported among workers performing wildlife cleaning than among a comparison group of workers. Among the wildlife cleaning workers, scrapes and cuts were reported by two-thirds, itchy or red skin or rash were reported by nearly one-half, and symptoms of headache or feeling faint, dizzy, or fatigued were both reported in more than one-third. Hand, shoulder, or back pain was reported by 39% of the wildlife cleaning workers.
  • Although a specific etiology for the various injuries and symptoms is not possible to determine from this evaluation, a number of occupational exposures specific to wildlife cleaning work are likely important. The NIOSH investigators observed the potential for skin contact with several types of skin irritants including oil and oil-contaminated water. Scrapes and cuts reported among workers were likely related to handling of wildlife and various types of equipment. Workers frequently performed tasks requiring awkward and heavy lifting, potentially contributing to reported musculoskeletal symptoms.
  • A potential occupational hazard for wildlife cleaning workers similar to that of concern for other Deepwater Horizon response workers includes heat stress from work in a hot and humid environment.

Recommendations were made related to: (1) heat stress management, (2) work practices and personal protective equipment use to minimize potential for skin contact with oil, oil-contaminated water, and other potential skin irritants, (3) work practices and controls to minimize potential for musculoskeletal disorders and slips or falls, and (4) routine reporting of health concerns or injuries to supervisory staff or on-site safety representatives.

August 13, 2010

On May 28, 2010, BP requested a health hazard evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response workers. The fourth in a series of interim reports from this health hazard evaluation was issued August 11, 2010. In this fourth interim report, NIOSH found that:

  • On the days of the NIOSH evaluation, the VoOs were on the water breaking up foam patches but did not encounter surface oil. Airborne concentrations of measured contaminants, including benzene, 2-butoyxethanol, and carbon monoxide, were all well below Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) on several Vessels of Opportunity (VoOs). Based on observations of possible work tasks, NIOSH recommended that all personnel conducting oil clean-up work on the VoOs be provided and correctly wear personal protective equipment to prevent dermal exposures. NIOSH also noted that eliminating cigarette smoking on the VoOs would be desirable to protect the health of all onboard the vessels.
  • Health surveys obtained from VoO responders, captains, and deckhands [not necessarily from the vessels on which NIOSH industrial hygienists measured exposures] noted health symptoms similar to those reported by response workers with no exposures to oil , dispersants, or cleaning chemicals. Symptoms related to heat exposure and upper respiratory symptoms were the most frequently reported. As noted above, smoking in the workplace was of concern and NIOSH recommended that this issue be addressed for emergency response workers in the future.
  • NIOSH investigators also carried out industrial hygiene surveys and collected self-administered health symptom surveys aboard two vessels at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil release. The vessels included the Development Driller II (DDII), a semisubmersible drilling unit, and the Discoverer Enterprise, a drillship collecting crude oil and burning gases coming up with the oil. Airborne concentrations for all contaminants evaluated were well below applicable OELs. Workers aboard the DD II reported more symptoms, particularly psychosocial symptoms, than workers aboard the Discoverer Enterprise and response workers not working on vessels or with exposure to chemical hazards. NIOSH made the following recommendations: (1) BP and its contractors should continue to make respirators immediately available for uncontrolled situations or during operations where continuous area monitoring indicates rising exposure levels, (2) more than one manufacturer’s respirators should be available and, during the fit testing process, workers should be given information about respiratory protection use, including the need to remain clean-shaven while aboard the vessel, (3) the use of 8-hour, 40-hour work week OELs for 12-hour, 84-hour work weeks should be re-evaluated, (4) the switch from 2-week to 3-week work rotations should be re-evaluated for its effect on determining appropriate OELs and trigger levels for emergency procedures, and its effect on injury risk, (5) BP should maintain the Deepwater Horizon Off-shore Clean-up Task Force Heat Stress Management Plan, and (6) BP and its contractors should consider a special emphasis follow-up with regard to Employee Assistance Program services.
July 22, 2010

On May 28, 2010, BP requested a health hazard evaluation of Deepwater Horizon Response workers. The third in a series of interim reports from this health hazard evaluation, which is ongoing, was issued July 22, 2010. In this third interim report, NIOSH found that:

  • PBZ and area air concentrations of the contaminants measured during an oil skimming mission aboard the M/V Queen Bee on June 14-16, 2010 were below occupational exposure limits. No workers reported acute health symptoms. NIOSH observed the potential for skin contact with oil while placing and removing the skimmer and boom from the water and during cleaning activities on deck. However, it was observed that workers wore appropriate protective equipment. NIOSH recommended continued use of eye protection, coveralls, rubber chemical boots, hardhats, and nitrile gloves for those on the deck during oil skimming operations with greater potential for dermal contact, and ear muffs when working on or near the high volume pumping unit. NIOSH also recommended continued attention to preventing heat related illness.
  • PBZ and area air concentrations of the compounds measured during an oil dispersant mission aboard the M/V International Peace on June 21-22, 2010 were all well below occupational exposure limits. Higher concentrations of propylene glycol, dipropylene glycol butyl ether, and 2-butoxyethanol were measured on workers involved in dispersant spraying than on workers involved in water sampling, suggesting that dispersant spraying was the source of these low exposures. The highest concentrations of other volatile organic compounds were found inside the vessel cabin. The presence of these substances may be a result of contaminants in building materials, furnishings, and cleaning products. Because of the potential for inhalation and dermal contact with the dispersant, NIOSH recommended continuing the practice of keeping non-essential personnel inside the cabin during dispersant spray operations and using respiratory protection, eye protection, coveralls, and gloves for those on the deck during dispersant spraying. Personnel conducting fluorometry and water sampling and preparing for dispersion should continue to wear cloth coveralls, eye protection, and nitrile gloves when handling items or samples potentially contaminated with oil or dispersant. NIOSH also recommended continued attention to preventing heat related illness.
June 23-28, 2010

One NIOSH IH team completed their mission at the Deepwater Horizon oil source to conduct personal exposure monitoring and administer health surveys to response workers on two vessels, the Drill Development II and the Discoverer Enterprise. The team collected 59 surveys from off-shore workers at the Deepwater Horizon oil source. Exposure monitoring was conducted on the International Peace, a vessel applying dispersant; health surveys were also given to employees on the vessel.

The medical field team continued to conduct daily reviews of Venice BP infirmary logs; the most common symptoms reported were sinus congestion, sore throat, and headache. Additionally, the medical field team delivered posters on hand washing and hygiene to site safety personnel.

The first interim report for the HHE of Deepwater Horizon off-shore response activities was released on June 23, 2010. This interim report included the evaluation of the fishermen that had been hospitalized, exposure monitoring results from a small-area dispersant mission and health survey results collected from response workers during this dispersant mission. The dispersant mission involved two motor vessels, one applying dispersant and one monitoring effectiveness. Additional interim reports will be released as data become available.

June 18-22, 2010

One IH team is on the BP Drill Development II vessel which is drilling one of the relief wells. This mission will provide NIOSH the first opportunity to conduct exposure monitoring at the source of the oil. Personal breathing zone and area air monitoring was conducted for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including sulfur containing VOCs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon monoxide. The team is also administering health surveys to workers on the vessels they are monitoring.

A second team of industrial hygienists conducted an evaluation on vessels of opportunity operating within 12 nautical miles from shore. They collected general area and personal breathing zone air samples for diesel exhaust, volatile organic compounds, glycols, and benzene soluble particulates, and made direct-reading measurements for carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, temperature, and relative humidity. These vessels did not encounter oil on the days of our evaluation; however, the vessels were tasked with breaking up residual material on the water surface.

The NIOSH medical field team met with USCG command staff and BP safety representatives to develop strategies to reach off-shore workers for administration of the health survey and determine the total number of response workers. The medical field team attended a safety training session for new response workers and provided feedback on heat stress, hygiene, and illnesses. The medical field team also provided feedback to Heat Stress Advisors and BP Safety representatives regarding ways to improve heat stress prevention. The medical field team has also been conducting a daily review of Venice, LA, BP infirmary logs; the most common complaints have been rash, lacerations, headache, sore throat, cough, and sinus congestion.

Updated June 16 & 17, 2010

Two teams of industrial hygienists returned from missions on vessels where they were conducting worker exposure monitoring for volatile organic compounds including total hydrocarbons and specific VOCs identified on screening samples. The team also monitored for carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, benzene soluble particulates, diesel exhaust, and propylene glycol (a component of dispersant). The teams are preparing for subsequent missions to conduct further personal and area air monitoring, including a exposure monitoring mission to the source area.

A team consisting of one medical officer and an industrial hygiene technician observed response work at a pelican decontamination operation run by the International Bird Research Center in Ft. Jackson, LA, to evaluate worker exposures. After observation of work practices the team recommended increased ventilation which the facility reports have been ordered. The team offered to provide posters as an educational resource for workers on heat stress, hygiene, and infection control. The medical team continues to administer and collect health symptom questionnaires to response workers and has been active in discussion with BP about heat stress prevention plans. Medical officers in the home office have drafted a document of parameters for fitness for duty for use by clinicians who are contracted by BP. The document is currently in review.

June 15, 2010

Two HHE Program industrial hygiene teams conducted worker exposure monitoring for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including total hydrocarbons and specific VOCs identified on screening samples. Sampling is also being done to look for carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, benzene soluble particulates, diesel exhaust, and propylene glycol (a component of dispersant). Monitoring was conducted during offshore booming and skimming operations.

The medical team is continuing to administer health symptom surveys to off-shore response workers and investigating the feasibility of distributing additional surveys through boat docks, decontamination areas, and safety officers. About 350 surveys, of which ~10% were Spanish, were received at the home office for review. Medical officers visit the Venice, LA, BP infirmary daily. The infirmary, which sees first-aid and non-recordable injuries and illnesses, refers more serious cases and recordable injuries and illnesses to the Disaster Medical Assistance Team clinic. Infirmary logs showed some very mild heat-related symptoms. HHE Program medical staff are preparing a guidance document on medical screening for fitness for duty. The medical field team identified a need for worker education materials about heat stress, hand washing, and hygiene and is facilitating the provision of public health posters for a camp for contracted on-shore and near-shore workers.

June 14, 2010

On June 11, 2010, one industrial hygiene team returned from a 4-day mission with the in-situ burn team where they conducted 2 days of sampling on both the igniter boats and shrimping trawlers that pulled boom to collect the oil for the burns. Personal and area air monitoring was conducted for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), aldehydes, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, benzene soluble particulates, diesel exhaust, and total hydrocarbons. The team noted that the importance of rest breaks and hydration was stressed by BP safety officers as heat stress is a major concern for workers.

Another team of industrial hygienists returned from a 2-day mission aboard vessels that were placing boom and skimming oil. Very little surface oil was observed during the 2 days. The industrial hygiene team monitored for VOCs and other contaminants; these data may be useful for comparison with data collected on days when there is more skimming activity and boom placement.

The medical team met with the lead Safety Team at the construction site that will house 1000 Venice ground crew workers. The medical team administered a health symptom survey to the Safety Team Leads on the construction site and collected 60 surveys. They also interviewed the health care providers at the Disaster Medical Assistance Team. DMAT staff reported no medical conditions that they attributed to work-related exposures, other than heat stress. On June 11th, NIOSH received medical records for seven fishermen involved in oil response activities who were hospitalized on May 26, 2010. NIOSH occupational health physicians are reviewing these records.

June 10, 2010

On June 7, 2010, two industrial hygienists from the Health Hazard Evaluation Program boarded a vessel for a three day mission involving in-situ burns (controlled burning of oil on the water surface). The team will collect environmental sampling data to monitor oil spill response workers’ exposures during the in-situ burns. A second NIOSH team arrived in Louisiana on June 8th to monitor exposures of employees working on the "vessels of opportunity". Seamen from the vessels of opportunity, working as oil spill response workers, are involved in boom placement, boom maintenance, skimming, and oil scouting. During the June 5th dispersant mission exposure monitoring was conducted for volatile organic compounds, propylene glycol, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, diesel exhaust, and oil mist. These samples have been received by the laboratories; the results from these samples are expected next week.

The NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation medical team arrived in Venice, LA on June 2nd and 3rd. The team went out on an oil platform vessel to evaluate health symptoms of crew and contractors involved in applying dispersants. The team has also met with contacts from fishermen’s associations and other groups to attempt to coordinate participation of offshore vessel crews in a health symptom survey. The survey form will be available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese to ensure that language barriers do not limit participation. The team is also reviewing records from response workers seen at the on-site infirmary and the mobile health care clinic staffed by a medical team from the HHS National Disaster Medical System and arranging visits to local care centers to look for work-related illnesses.

June 7, 2010

On May 28, 2010, NIOSH received a health hazard evaluation request from BP asking NIOSH to assess reported illnesses among workers involved in offshore clean-up operations. A NIOSH team of two industrial hygienists and two medical officers arrived in Louisiana on June 2, 2010. The team is coordinating logistics for the evaluation with Unified Command, BP, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and contractors to BP and the USCG. NIOSH industrial hygienists will assess exposures through observation and industrial hygiene assessments; and evaluate work practices and use of personal protective equipment. On Saturday, June 5, the team took environmental samples during the application of dispersant. An additional team of two industrial hygienists and an industrial hygiene technician expects to arrive in Louisiana this week to assist in sampling for exposures to other potential work-related health hazards. The medical team plans to evaluate illnesses and injuries among groups of offshore workers. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has agreed to provide medical reports of the seven previously hospitalized fishermen for NIOSH physicians to review. Additional updates will be provided as new information becomes available. Once the evaluation is completed, findings and recommendations will be compiled in a report. The health hazard evaluation report will be provided to employer and employee representatives and will be publically available on the NIOSH website. For more information on the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Program, visit the NIOSH web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/default.html

-- View the archive of updates to the Deepwater Horizon Hazard Evaluation --

 
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  • Page last updated: August 24, 2011
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