Using Real-Time Area VOC Measurements to Estimate Total Hydrocarbons Exposures to Workers Involved in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Caroline P. Groth, Tran B. Huynh, Sudipto Banerjee, Patricia A. Stewart, Lawrence S. Engel, Richard K. Kwok, Dale P. Sandler, Mark Stenzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Even though the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response and clean-up (OSRC) had one of the largest exposure monitoring efforts of any oil spill, a number of exposure groups did not have sufficient personal data available or there were gaps in days measured to adequately characterize exposures for the GuLF STUDY, an epidemiologic study investigating the health of the OSRC workers. Area measurements were available from real-time air monitoring instruments and used to supplement the personal exposure measurements. Objectives: The objective was to present a method that used real-time volatile organic compounds (VOCs) area measurements transformed to daily total hydrocarbons (THC) time-weighted averages (TWAs) to supplement THC personal full-shift measurements collected using passive charcoal badges. A second objective was to develop exposure statistics using these data for workers on vessels piloting remotely operated vehicle (ROV) vessels and other marine vessels (MVs) not at the job title level, but at the vessel level. Methods: From hourly vessel averages derived from ~26 million real-time VOC measurements, we estimated full-shift VOC TWAs. Then, we determined the relationship between these TWAs and corresponding full-shift THC personal measurements taken on the same vessel-day. We used this relationship to convert the full-shift VOC measurements to full-shift 'THC' TWA estimates when no personal THC measurements existed on a vessel-day. We then calculated arithmetic means (AMs) and other statistics of THC exposures for each vessel. Results: The VOC-derived estimates substantially supplemented the THC personal measurements, with the number of vessel-days for which we have exposure estimates increasing by ~60%. The estimates of the AMs are some of the highest observed in the GuLF STUDY. As expected, the AMs decreased over time, consistent with our findings on other vessels. Conclusions: Despite the inherent limitations of using real-time area measurements, we were able to develop additional daily observations of personal THC exposures for workers on the ROV vessels and other MVs over time. The estimates likely resulted in more representative estimates of the AMs in the GuLF STUDY. The method used here can be applied in other occupational settings and industries for personal exposure estimation where large amounts of area measurements and more limited numbers of personal measurements are available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)I156-I171
JournalAnnals of Work Exposures and Health
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Occupational Hygiene Society.


  • Deepwater Horizon
  • linear regression
  • real-time area measurements
  • total hydrocarbons
  • volatile organic compounds


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