Asthma Risk May Be Increased in Oil Spill Response, Cleanup Workers

asthma, lungs
asthma, lungs
For oil spill response and cleanup workers, total hydrocarbons and BTEX-H chemicals are associated with increased asthma risk.

HealthDay News For oil spill response and cleanup workers, total hydrocarbons (THCs) and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, o-, m-, and p-xylenes and n-hexane (BTEX-H) chemicals are associated with increased asthma risk, according to a study published in the September issue of Environment International.

Kaitlyn G. Lawrence, Ph.D., from the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and colleagues examined the association between asthma and oil spill-related exposures, including job classes, THCs, individual BTEX-H chemicals, BTEX-H mixture, and fine particulate matter, using data from the Gulf Long-Term Follow-up Study. The study included 24,937 cleanup workers and 7,671 nonworkers following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. The analysis focused on 19,018 workers without asthma before the spill.

The researchers found that the risk for asthma was greater for oil spill response and cleanup workers than nonworkers (risk ratio, 1.60). Increased estimated THC exposure levels were associated with an elevated risk in an exposure-dependent manner. Increasing exposure to individual BTEX-H chemicals and the BTEX-H mixture was also associated with asthma risk. An increased asthma risk of 1.45 was seen in association with a simultaneous quartile increase in the BTEX-H mixture. Associations were less apparent for self-reported physician-diagnosed asthma alone, with fewer cases.

“Our study provides the first evidence of increased asthma risk associated with exposures to individual crude oil components and the BTEX-H mixture,” the authors write.

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