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Introduction and summary
We’ve all seen picures o he dreadul and coninuing aermah o he explosionon he Deepwaer Horizon oil well in he Gul o Mexico. Te environmenalcleanup and he economic consequences o his will las ar ino he uure, andi’s hard o imagine ha he ime will come when umes rom oil, chemicals, and burning no longer pollue he air, oceans aren’ covered wih shees o oil, beachesaren’ sained wih ar, and marshes aren’ clogged wih residues. Bu wih hard work ha will evenually be he case. A ha poin he Unied Command—which was esablished under U.S. Coas Guard leadership o manage he response ohis disaser—will old, he cleanup workers will go home, and he ra o workers brough in rom diverse agencies as par o he emergency response will be pulled back o deal wih oher more urgen asks.Bu healh hreas rom he oil spill may linger unseen, perhaps or more han ageneraion. And we will no be ully prepared o address he public healh prob-lems ha arise in he uure unless here is an eecive and coordinaed handovero responsibiliies or proecing public healh rom he emergency responseagencies o agencies wih he capabiliy and capaciy or long-erm monioringand managemen. Federal agencies have been pulled in as needed in he gul spillresponse, bu i’s no clear ha he Healh and Human Services response has beensynchronized rom he op o ensure eecive delivery and coordinaion.In shor, he spill reieraes why we need o beter manage he shor- and long-erm responses required o address he public healh hreas such disasers pose wheher hey are manmade or due o naural causes.No sysemaic long-erm monioring and oversigh was pu in place wih heExxon Valdez spill in 1989, and now we wonder wha we missed. Several sudiesollowing he Presige oil spill o he coas o Spain in 2002 indicae ha somerespiraory problems in cleanup workers didn’ show up unil years aer he spill.
Addiionally, evidence suggess DNA damage occurred o hese workers hacould lead o cancers and aleraions in hormone saus.