Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Kristina D. Mena, MSPH PhD

Second Advisor


Third Advisor



Environmental contamination from marine oil spills can have damaging impacts on ecosystems and human health. In 2010, an explosion of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil drilling platform resulted in approximately 1,728 km of shoreline oiling. Existing research characterizes health risk from exposure to oil spill chemicals (OSCs) for adults; however, data on impacts to child health are limited. One objective of the Beach Exposure And Child HEalth Study (BEACHES), funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, is to estimate health risks to children between walking and six years of age from exposure to OSCs in a post-oil spill scenario during normal recreational beach activity. The National Research Council (NRC) risk assessment framework was adapted to account for child behavior patterns. Child macro- and micro-activity data were gathered from 391 parent surveys and recorded observations of beach play from 119 children from two beaches each in Miami, Florida and Galveston, Texas. Chemical concentration and distribution data for various OSCs (such as alkanes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, metals, and dispersants) were aggregated from existing literature and combined with micro-activity data to generate cancer and non-cancer risk ranges for oral (non-dietary), dermal, and inhalation exposures. Each input variable in the risk assessment framework was evaluated to determine which variable(s) have the most significant impact on overall risk estimates. A Monte Carlo analysis (MCA) was conducted to address uncertainty and variability of both the assumed and observed datasets. Finally, a sensitivity analysis was performed to investigate the different distributional assumptions for each model input. These analyses revealed gaps in current research to provide useful information in guiding local, regional, and national public health agencies regarding monitoring of hazards, beach advisories and closures, and media response in the event of a chemical disaster event.