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      Coping with oil spills: oil exposure and anxiety among residents of Gulf Coast states after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

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            Introduction: In April 2010, a fatal explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. This research describes the association of oil exposure with anxiety after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and evaluates effect modification by self-mastery, emotional support, and cleanup participation.

            Methods: To assess the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted the Gulf States Population Survey, a random-digit-dial telephone cross-sectional survey completed between December 2010 and December 2011 with 38,361 responses in four different Gulf Coast states­: Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. Anxiety severity was measured using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder symptom inventory. We used Tobit regression to model underlying anxiety as a function of oil exposure and hypothesized effect modifiers, adjusting for socio-demographics.

            Results: Latent anxiety was higher among those directly exposed to oil than among those who were not directly exposed to oil in confounder-adjusted models (β=2.84, 95% CI: 0.78, 4.91). Among individuals exposed to oil, there was no significant interaction between participating in cleanup activities and emotional support for anxiety ( P=0.16). However, among those directly exposed to oil, in confounder-adjusted models, participation in oil spill cleanup activities was associated with lower latent anxiety (β=-3.50, 95% CI: -6.10, -0.90).

            Conclusion: Oil contact was associated with greater anxiety, but this association appeared to be mitigated by cleanup participation.


            Author and article information

            UCL Open: Environment Preprint
            UCL Press
            18 March 2021
            [1 ] Department of Environmental Health, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, GA 30322.
            [2 ] Department of Epidemiology, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, GA 30322.
            [3 ] National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, 30345.
            [4 ] Department of Environmental Health, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, GA 30322. Department of Epidemiology, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, GA 30322.
            Author notes
            Author information

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            : 18 March 2021
            National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences P30 ES019776

            The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
            Social policy & Welfare,Earth & Environmental sciences,Psychology,Biostatistics,Environmental management, Policy & Planning,Data analysis
            Sanitation, health, and the environment,Gulf States Population Survey (GSPS),Environmental protection,Public policymaking,Pollution and health,Disaster recovery,Generalized anxiety,Mental health,Emergency response,Sustainability,Environmental justice and inequality/inequity


            Date: 20 September 2021

            Handling Editor: Prof Dan Osborn

            Editorial decision: Request revision. The Handling Editor requested revisions; the article has been returned to the authors to make this revision.

            Additional comments by the Editor:

            I would now like to recommend that you revise your paper according to the reviewers' comments and upload the revised paper as soon as possible. Please review the instructions for submitting a revised article in the editorial guidelines. Please take into particular consideration:

            • Although both reviewers consider this an important paper they make points that, if addressed, would strengthen it. One reviewer makes a number of points in relation to methodology and analysis that would make the paper easier to understand.
            • The same reviewer asks for clarification about the relationship between this paper and ref 10. Such a clarification would be very helpful.
            • The other reviewer asks that more context is provided for the paper - e.g. with respect to similar large environmental incidents caused by oil spillages.
            • This reviewer also would like to see the methodology set out more clearly - I suggest that placing the methodology in some broad psychological context or providing some theoretical background to the choice of approach or measures (e.g. mastery) might be one way of approaching those points.
            2021-09-22 10:50 UTC

            Date: 30 March 2021

            Handling Editor: Dan Osborn

            This article is a preprint article and has not been peer-reviewed. It is under consideration following submission to UCL Open: Environment Preprint for open peer review.


            Additional comments by the Editor:

            People's wellbeing can suffer when they have experience of an environmental disaster and what factors increase or ameliorate anxiety need to be clearly defined in the context of different types of disaster. This preprint has analysed data from a survey of populations with varying experiences of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that were living in coastal and inland communities.

            2021-03-30 11:42 UTC

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