Why wasn’t fundamental scientific research conducted after previous spills?

Palinkas (in the audience) remarked that once the litigation process related to the Exxon Valdez spill reached “full steam,” research on the effects of exposure stopped. The challenge was not only to protect the confidentiality of research participants, but also to prevent the litigation efforts compromising the research process as a whole. For example, researchers were not able to communicate results back to the affected communities. Palinkas’s story prompted Goldman to comment that protecting researchers from those types of legal barriers is an important public policy issue that needs to be addressed. Matte reflected on experiences in New York City after 9/11 and replied that two of the greatest challenges were the need to assemble resources and the lack of a leadership structure. He said, “Everyone involved wishes that things had started sooner.” He commented on the additional challenge in this case of identifying a cohort for examining chemical exposure.

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