oil spillA long-term study on health effects experienced by Gulf oil spill cleanup workers has reached a milestone -- 10,000 participants -- but organizers still want more.

Nearly two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 10,000 cleanup workers and volunteers have enrolled in the Gulf Long-term Follow-up (GuLF) STUDY, a national effort to determine if the oil spill led to physical or mental health problems. Reaching the GuLF STUDY's target goal of 55,000 participants would make it the largest health study of its kind.

The study is conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Dale Sandler, Ph.D., chief of the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch and principal investigator of the study encouraged anyone who helped in the cleanup effort to call and enroll in the GuLF STUDY. "We want to hear everyone’s story," said Sandler. "Everyone is important to this study."

For more information, people can call the toll-free number at 1-855-NIH-GULF (1-855-644-4853) or visit the GuLF STUDY website at www.niehs.nih.gov/gulfstudy/.

NIEHS was on site in the Gulf at the beginning of the oil disaster that occurred on April 20, 2010, and gave safety training to more than 150,000 cleanup workers. Now, some of these workers have concerns about their health as a result of participating in the cleanup. The GuLF STUDY was designed to answer some of these questions and is expected to generate important data that may help guide policy decisions on health care and services in the Gulf region. Findings may also influence responses to future oil spills.

Nonetheless, NIEHS says volunteers have been hard to find. Many have moved to new residences or changed telephone numbers, so the study has been using a range of approaches to invite people to join the study, including billboards, radio and TV, Facebook and Twitter, and community meetings. Individuals may be eligible for the study if they:

•Are at least 21 years old
•Did oil spill cleanup work for at least one day
•Supported the cleanup effort in some way or completed oil spill worker training

When volunteers in the study are asked to complete a survey over the telephone. Most participants will also get a medical exam at home, and be asked to provide blood, urine, and other samples. When the medical visit is complete, participants will receive a gift card worth $50.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.