The 2010 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the largest oil spill the United States has ever endured. The oil spill raised many public health and environmental concerns, including those about the safety of Gulf seafood and public beaches. Analysis of seafood and coastal beaches in the aftermath of the oil spill indicated that public health risks from exposure to harmful crude oil residues returned to pre-spill levels soon after the oil spill had dissipated. However, the official seafood risk assessment elicited concerns about the inclusion of vulnerable populations, and gaps in toxicological knowledge and related risk information about many of the harmful components in crude oil. Residual crude oil may persist in water-saturated sediments and submerged oil mats that can act as sources for remobilization and future exposures. The response to the Deepwater Horizon event revealed a lack of adequate demographic and human health baseline data, benchmark environmental contaminant data, effective risk communication strategies, and integrated surveillance systems linking human and environmental health status and trends. The development of such knowledge would help improve responses and outcomes to future large-scale catastrophic events.
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