Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 370–378 | Cite as

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Through the Lens of Human Health and the Ecosystem

  • Maureen LichtveldEmail author
  • Samendra Sherchan
  • Kaitlyn B. Gam
  • Richard K. Kwok
  • Christopher Mundorf
  • Arti Shankar
  • Lissa Soares
Global Environmental Health and Sustainability (W Al-Delaimy, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Global Environmental Health and Sustainability


This review examines current research ascertaining the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on human health and ecosystems. Driven by the need to strategically focus research funding, the authors also assess the implications of those findings and promote a transdisciplinary research agenda addressing critical gaps.Epidemiologic studies conducted in workers and vulnerable communities in the spill’s aftermath showed that non-chemical stressors affect resilience. Ecosystem-wise salt marsh species showed variability in structural and functional changes, attributed to species-specific tolerance, oil exposure, and belowground plant organs damage.Lacking baseline exposure assessment data hampers assessing the impact of chemical stressors. Research priorities include leveraging existing women/child dyads and worker cohorts to advance exposure characterization and counter early adverse effects in most vulnerable populations. Key policy gaps include mandated just-in-time emergency resources to ascertain immediate post-event exposures and contemporary legislation addressing human and ecosystem health in an integrated rather than silo fashion.


Human health Ecosystem Exposure Non-chemical stressors 



This research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health grant number 5U19ES020677. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

This research was supported in part by the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program, which is funded from the Deepwater Horizon Medical Benefits Class Action Settlement approved by the US District Court in New Orleans on January 11, 2013 and made effective on February 12, 2014.

This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Maureen Lichtveld reports grants from NIH/NIEHS and GRHOP. Christopher Mundorf reports grants from National Institutes of Health. Samendra Sherchan, Kaitlyn B. Gam, Richard K. Kwok, Arti Shankar, and Lissa Soares declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: •Of importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maureen Lichtveld
    • 1
    Email author
  • Samendra Sherchan
    • 1
  • Kaitlyn B. Gam
    • 2
    • 3
  • Richard K. Kwok
    • 2
  • Christopher Mundorf
    • 4
  • Arti Shankar
    • 5
  • Lissa Soares
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Global Environmental Health SciencesTulane School of Public Health and Tropical MedicineNew OrleansUSA
  2. 2.Department of Epidemiology, National Institute of Environmental Health SciencesResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  3. 3.Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical MedicineNew OrleansUSA
  4. 4.Hiram CollegeHiramUSA
  5. 5.Department of Biostatistics and BioinformaticsTulane School of Public Health and Tropical MedicineNew OrleansUSA

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