Bayou to bench and back
During and following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) accident in 2010, concerns about air and seafood quality were paramount. Though individual perceptions varied, many people in coastal communities in southeast Louisiana felt they had been exposed to oil- and dispersant-related compounds. We hypothesized that implementation of a Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR) project would promote a more transparent and mutually beneficial relationship between researchers and the community. We conducted both in-home and community-based assessments (n=198) in culturally diverse populations most impacted by the DWH event, including the Vietnamese in New Orleans East and the residents of the Bayou communities. Levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paired indoor/outdoor air samples and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in seafood samples were determined with chemical analysis. Data were collected from multiple self-administered surveys regarding environmental awareness and impact of the DWH event, access to, and trusted sources of, information, perceptions about safety, and selected behavioral and socio-demographic variables. In an effort to enhance public understanding of the interconnectedness of their health with the Gulf ecosystem, we disseminated the information directly to the participants as well as the larger communities at risk. Through post-dissemination follow-up surveys, we explored the effectiveness of our environmental CBPR research strategy with our primary goals being to improve risk communication and promote informed decision-making among our coastal populations.