Environmental Heat Exposure and Heat-Related Symptoms in United States Coast Guard Deepwater Horizon Disaster Responders

Credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Colin White/US Coast Guard.
Chief Petty Officer Frost, a boatswain's mate aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Juniper, supervises the recovery of containment boom in the Gulf of Mexico. The Juniper worked on the response to clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was affected by heat. This paper evaluates the association between environmental heat exposure and self-reported heat-related symptoms in US Coast Guard Deepwater Horizon disaster responders.

Using climate data and post-deployment survey responses from 3,648 responders, heat-exposure categories were assigned on the basis of of both wet-bulb-globe-temperature (WBGT) and heat-index (HI) measurements (median, mean, maximum). Prevalence ratios (PRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated with adjusted Poisson regression models with robust error variance to estimate associations with reported heat-related symptoms. The association between use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and heat-related symptoms was also evaluated.

Those in the highest WBGT median-based heat-exposure category had increased prevalence of heat-related symptoms compared with those in the lowest category, and there was a significant exposure-response trend. Results were similar for exposure categories based on WBGT and HI metrics. Analyses stratified by use of PPE found significantly stronger associations between environmental heat exposure and heat-related symptoms in those who did not use PPE than in those who did.

US Coast Guard Deepwater Horizon disaster responders who experienced higher levels of environmental heat had higher prevalences of heat-related symptoms. These symptoms may affect health, safety, and mission effectiveness.

Find the paper here.



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