have compromised the integrity of research results. Summarizing comments from workshop participants, Savitz stated that certificates of confidentiality may prevent the misuse of data by attorneys, litigants, government officials, or other interested parties. From another perspective, some speakers such as Wilma Subra (see Chapter 4) expressed concern that fear of litigation persuaded some employers to discourage employees from reporting or seeking treatment for adverse health effects. Bailar encouraged state health officers to work with their respective state attorneys general and federal government representatives to better protect research participants and their data.

Future Directions

Understanding and addressing the potential health consequences of the Gulf disaster will be an ongoing, long-term effort. This workshop was only an early step in that process, said Adler. Several participants commented on the importance of revisiting these questions and issues in the future through additional activities and collaborations.

Although it is difficult to predict the full magnitude of the Gulf oil disaster’s impact on human health, there is an opportunity to help the communities whose well-being is in jeopardy and to prevent or mitigate similar outcomes in the future, according to many workshop participants. Touching on some of Bernard Goldstein’s remarks about the connection between the environment and human health (see Chapter 1), Goldman identified the need for better health-impacts analyses of the policy decisions that led up to this disaster. She noted that the depth of the Deepwater Horizon oil break was not accidental; that is where the oil is. In the future, when additional oil reserves are needed, she opined that drilling decisions may entail entering even riskier environments. Goldman encouraged the health community to become more involved in energy decision making and policy development.

In conclusion, Adler echoed the opinions of other participants, encouraging federal, state, and local governments; academia; private industry; and community networks and programs to coordinate and share their expertise. By including the public in the development of monitoring and research activities and by protecting the integrity of data collection and analysis, surveillance systems could be developed to accurately inform decision makers and the public about the real risks to the physical and psychological health related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.



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