The United Houma Nation became a partner with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) under a National Institute of Environmental Health (NIEH) funded post oil spill research project. This phase of the project, commonly called GC-HARMS, is assessing the health of individuals who consume seafood. Particularly, it is trying to determine IF seafood contains elevated levels of harmful chemicals post Deepwater Horizon disaster, as well as do the individuals that consume seafood post oil spill show signs of exposure to harmful PAHs (poly-aromatic hydrocarbons), which are the harmful chemicals found in crude oil.
(UTMB Team pictured from left to right James Gee, Lacy Vito (UHN), Dr. Amanda Phillips-Savoy, Michele Cravey, Dr. Sharon Croissant and Asim Kahn)
The human testing sample is 300 random individuals along coastal Louisiana and Missippi. Each individual will participate in the study over 3 testing cycles in order to not only assess initial blood levels and physiological functioning after the spill, but to also track the same individuals as much as possible over 2 additional testing cycles to determine if there is a "bio-accumulation" effect, meaning if there are harmful effects does continued consumption of seafood at high levels increase the presence of harmful condition or does the body naturally adjust.
Sample hubs were choosen based upon the communities proximity to the spill as well as the higher than normal consumption rates of Gulf seafood. The UHN partnered with the UTMB staff on pulling a sample pool of 100 children, adults and elders residing in the region who underwent initial health testing in December. The testing includes all basic health screenings such as height, weight, blood pressure and vision screening as well as pulmonary (lung) functioning assessments, a comprehensive blood panel and full medical physical. Beginning today, those individuals are returning for the second round of assessments.
Individuals participating will have their results assessed by Dr. Amanda Phillips-Savoy, Environmental Health physician. Dr. Phillips-Savoy is a partner to the project as well and is a physician with LSU Medical Center in Lafayette. Screening for PAHs and potential presence of toxins is overseen by Dr. Sharon Croissant, Toxicologist with the UTMB.
Once data has had the opportunity to be assessed, reviewed and compared, the UHN will be hosting meetings within the community to share what has been learned.