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Survey of coastal residents shows Gulf oil spill has significant impact on families
Date:8/3/2010

August 3, 2010 -- As the acute phase of the Gulf oil spill transitions to a chronic phase, marked by long-term challenges to the public health, environment and economy, researchers at Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness interviewed over 1,200 adults living within 10 miles of the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Mississippi, in collaboration with the Children's Health Fund and The Marist Poll of Poughkeepsie, NY. The survey, conducted by telephone in July, after the Deepwater Horizon well was capped, found evidence of significant and potentially lasting impact of the disaster on the health, mental health, and economic fortunes of residents and their children and on the way they live their everyday lives. The findings have implications for health and economic policies going forward.

Among the key survey findings:

  • Over 40% of adults living within ten miles of the coast said they have experienced direct exposure to the oil spill or clean-up effort. Within this group, nearly 40% reported physical symptoms of skin irritations and respiratory problems, which they attributed to the oil spill.

  • Over one-third of parents report that their children have experienced either physical symptoms or mental health distress as a consequence of the oil spill.

  • One in five households report a drop in income since the oil spill, and 8% report job loss. These losses were most likely to hit those who were already economically vulnerable: households with incomes under $25,000 a year.

  • More than one-quarter (26.6%) of coastal residents said they thought they might have to move away from the Gulf Coast. Among those earning less then $25,000, the figure was 36.3%. Children whose parents think they may move are almost three times more likely to have mental health distress than are children whose parents do not expect to move.

  • More than 70% of parents report children spending less time swimming, b
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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