Adverse Physical and Mental Health Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill among Gulf Coast Children: An Environmental Justice Perspective

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Abstract

Background: This study applies an environmental justice lens to examine whether racial/ethnic minority and low socioeconomic status affected children's physical and mental health after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It expands this lens to explore whether these risk factors affected children's health due to greater direct physical exposure to crude oil or dispersant and/or household economic exposure as a result of income or job loss. Methods: We used data from the Gulf Coast Population Impact (GCPI) study, a representative survey of 1434 households in 15 highly impacted Gulf Coast communities gathered from April to August 2012. We conducted binomial logistic regression to assess the associations between race/ethnicity and annual household income, oil spill exposure routes, and children's health. Results: Non-White children (prevalence odds ratios [POR] 1.40; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04-1.89) and those with direct oil/dispersant exposure (POR 3.68; 95% CI 2.78-4.87) were at greater risk of physical health problems. Children in households earning less than $20,000 annually (POR 2.90; 95% CI 1.88-4.48) and those with direct oil/dispersant exposure (POR 3.74; 95% CI 2.72-5.14) were at greater risk of mental health problems. Racial/ethnic minority children were not at greater risk of physical exposure, whereas race/ethnicity and annual household income interacted to determine risk of economic exposure. We observed an interaction effect between annual household income and oil spill-related income or job loss on children's physical health problems. Discussion: Further environmental justice research should examine the pathways through which racial/ethnic minority and low socioeconomic status influence child health outcomes after technological disasters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-133
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021

Keywords

  • Deepwater Horizon oil spill
  • Gulf Coast
  • children's health
  • environmental justice
  • race/ethnicity
  • socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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