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Toxicological Properties of Specific Aromatic Hydrocarbons Isolated from Fresh and Aged Crude Oil from the Deepwater Horizon Spill

Implementing Organization

Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine


DWH Project Funding


Known Leveraged Funding


Funding Organization

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI)

Funding Program

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative GoMRI Grant Program


Project Category


Project Actions

Public Health Research

Targeted Resources

Human and/or Institutional Capacity

Project Description

Oil spills are well recognized for causing toxic effects in people and environmental organisms. However, oil is chemically complex and the specific compounds that contribute to its toxicity are surprisingly poorly defined. Specifically, petrogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a large family of chemicals in oil that have never been evaluated for toxicity. We will identify highly toxic compounds within fresh and weathered oil samples using a marriage of analytical chemical methodologies and cellular bioassays. This process will identify the presence and relative potencies of PAHs and structurally related chemicals that activate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). Activation of AhR is the key initial step in a signaling pathway that ultimately results in toxicity. Our goal is to use these identified toxic compounds as a gauge of toxicity for any fresh or aged oil sample.


Charles Miller
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