Previous PAH analyses have focused almost exclusively on 16 EPA-benchmarked PAHs referred to as "pyrogenic" that is, formed by burning. By measuring exposure to PAHs formed by natural "petrogenic" processes, the study will be breaking new ground.
"Most of the oil remains in the marine environment, possibly due to the extensive use of dispersants preventing its removal by burning or collection at the sea surface, and the potential exists for long-term human exposure to petrogenic PAHs which have not been examined much to date from a toxicological or human health perspective," Elferink said.
In order to accomplish their goals, the researchers will work closely with their community-group partners, using what is known as a Community-Based Participatory Research approach.
"To do an investigation of this kind you really have to have help from the community, because they know so much that we don't," said UTMB associate professor Sharon Croisant. "They're helping us find local fishermen who we'll be training to do the sampling not just from the commercial catches but also from the bycatch, which they eat. They're also our partners in looking at the way seafood is distributed in these subsistence communities, which is frequently by barter, often through extended families."
In addition, the groups are also working with the researchers to assemble a clinical cohort of people from whom they can take blood and urine and other samples that can be analyzed for petrogenic PAHs and metabolites. "We want to see if we can correlate the levels of PAH in the blood and PAH in the fish or shrimp or oysters, whatever they're eating," Croisant said.
The investigation will extend beyond the toxicology and health effects of PAHs to include a study of the psychosocial fallout from spill, attempting to detect changes
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston