Deepwater Horizon oil spill exposure and child health: a longitudinal analysis

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DHOS) created widespread concern about threats to health among residents of the Louisiana Gulf Coast. This study uses data from the Resilient Children, Youth, and Communities study—a longitudinal cohort survey of households with children in DHOS-affected areas of South Louisiana—to consider the effect of DHOS exposure on health trajectories of children, an especially vulnerable population subgroup. Results from latent linear growth curve models show that family DHOS exposure via physical contact and job/income loss both negatively influenced initial child health. However, the effects of physical exposure dissipated over time while the effects of job/income loss persisted. This pattern holds for both general child health and the number of recent physical health problems children had experienced. These findings help to bridge the literature on disaster impacts and resilience/vulnerability, with the literature on socioeconomic status as a fundamental cause of health outcomes over the life course.