Tulane gets $18.7M for spill-related projects

By The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tulane University is getting $18.7 million for two multiyear environmental health projects designed to help Gulf Coast residents affected by the 2010 BP oil spill.

The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine will use $15 million from BP PLC’s settlement of class-action medical claims to set up a network of environmental health experts to help primary care doctors in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation awarded Dr. Maureen Lichtveld $3.7 million for a separate three-year project to learn how much seafood Louisiana residents eat and to examine typical environmental hazards that can affect seafood so additional risks for consumers can be accurately assessed if there’s another environmental disaster.

The environmental health network isn’t the only aspect of the five-year multistate program, including training health workers in environmental health and disaster preparedness, Lichtveld said.

“I’m especially excited by another component — to integrate environmental health as a science in all science curricula in selected public high schools in the four-state area,” she said. “So we will begin early to develop that pipeline of community leaders who know about environmental health and are eager to ask environmental health questions.”

Lichtveld said that will include an annual summer institute for science teachers and research by high school students.

“We’re building this capacity at every level, from high school level to graduate level,” she said.

The three-year look at seafood consumption will drill down to the community level in selected areas across the Louisiana coast, and look at how much of what different sorts of seafood people eat.

“What we’d like to know for the parishes that are involved, and the people — fisherfolk, people in New Orleans or in bayou parishes — is what it is they really eat. Not only how much, but what. What kind of seafood they eat; how much of it they eat. What we currently know about the contamination in the seafood,” Lichtveld said.

Each community has different dietary patterns, she said: “It’s critical to understand the potential for exposure — or if there is no exposure.”

The BP-leased rig Deepwater Horizon exploded on the night of April 20, 2012, killing 11 workers and setting off the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster.