Volatile Hydrocarbon Exposures and Incident Coronary Heart Disease Events: Up to Ten Years of Follow-up among Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Workers

Dazhe Chen, Dale P. Sandler, Alexander P. Keil, Gerardo Heiss, Eric A. Whitsel, Jessie K. Edwards, Patricia A. Stewart, Mark R. Stenzel, Caroline P. Groth, Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Sudipto Banerjee, Tran B. Huynh, W. Braxton Jackson, Aaron Blair, Kaitlyn G. Lawrence, Richard K. Kwok, Lawrence S. Engel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) disaster, response and cleanup workers were potentially exposed to toxic volatile components of crude oil. However, to our knowledge, no study has examined exposure to individual oil spill–related chemicals in relation to cardiovascular outcomes among oil spill workers. OBJECTIVES: Our aim was to investigate the association of several spill-related chemicals [benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, n-hexane (BTEX-H)] and total hydrocarbons (THC) with incident coronary heart disease (CHD) events among workers enrolled in a prospective cohort. METHODS: Cumulative exposures to THC and BTEX-H across the cleanup period were estimated via a job-exposure matrix that linked air measure-ment data with self-reported DWH spill work histories. We ascertained CHD events following each worker’s last day of cleanup work as the first self-reported physician-diagnosed myocardial infarction (MI) or a fatal CHD event. We estimated hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals for the associations of exposure quintiles (Q) with risk of CHD. We applied inverse probability weights to account for bias due to confounding and loss to follow-up. We used quantile g-computation to assess the joint effect of the BTEX-H mixture. RESULTS: Among 22,655 workers with no previous MI diagnoses, 509 experienced an incident CHD event through December 2019. Workers in higher quintiles of each exposure agent had increased CHD risks in comparison with the referent group (Q1) of that agent, with the strongest associations observed in Q5 (range of HR = 1:14–1:44). However, most associations were nonsignificant, and there was no evidence of exposure–response trends. We observed stronger associations among ever smokers, workers with ≤high school education, and workers with body mass index <30 kg/m2. No apparent positive association was observed for the BTEX-H mixture. CONCLUSIONS: Higher exposures to volatile components of crude oil were associated with modest increases in risk of CHD among oil spill workers, although we did not observe exposure–response trends. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP11859.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number057006
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023
Externally publishedYes

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