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Title: Exposure Assessment Techniques Applied to the Highly Censored Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill Personal Measurements

The GuLF Long-term Follow-up Study (GuLF STUDY) is investigating potential adverse health effects of workers involved in the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill response and cleanup (OSRC). Over 93% of the 160 000 personal air measurements taken on OSRC workers were below the limit of detection (LOD), as reported by the analytic labs. At this high level of censoring, our ability to develop exposure estimates was limited. The primary objective here was to reduce the number of measurements below the labs’ reported LODs to reflect the analytic methods’ true LODs, thereby facilitating the use of a relatively unbiased and precise Bayesian method to develop exposure estimates for study exposure groups (EGs). The estimates informed a job-exposure matrix to characterize exposure of study participants. A second objective was to develop descriptive statistics for relevant EGs that did not meet the Bayesian criteria of sample size ≥5 and censoring ≤80% to achieve the aforementioned level of bias and precision. One of the analytic labs recalculated the measurements using the analytic method’s LOD; the second lab provided raw analytical data, allowing us to recalculate the data values that fell between the originally reported LOD and the analytical method’s LOD. We developed rules more » for developing Bayesian estimates for EGs with >80% censoring. The remaining EGs were 100% censored. An order-based statistical method (OBSM) was developed to estimate exposures that considered the number of measurements, geometric standard deviation, and average LOD of the censored samples for N ≥ 20. For N < 20, substitution of ½ of the LOD was assigned. Recalculation of the measurements lowered overall censoring from 93.2 to 60.5% and of the THC measurements, from 83.1 to 11.2%. A total of 71% of the EGs met the ≤15% relative bias and <65% imprecision goal. Another 15% had censoring >80% but enough non-censored measurements to apply Bayesian methods. We used the OBSM for 3% of the estimates and the simple substitution method for 11%. The methods presented here substantially reduced the degree of censoring in the dataset and increased the number of EGs meeting our Bayesian method’s desired performance goal. The OBSM allowed for a systematic and consistent approach impacting only the lowest of the exposure estimates. This approach should be considered when dealing with highly censored datasets.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Annals of Work Exposures and Health
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. i56-i70
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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