DURHAM, N.C. — The United States government next week will launch a massive study to determine whether workers who helped clean up last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill are getting sick as a result of those jobs, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

DURHAM, N.C. — The United States government next week will launch a massive study to determine whether workers who helped clean up last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill are getting sick as a result of those jobs, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The study was commissioned after some cleanup workers reported chest pain, headaches, breathing difficulties and other ailments that they believed were linked to the oil spill, said Dale Sandler, chief of the epidemiology branch of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the government office heading the study.

"There are people who are sick," she said. "Are they sick from the oil? Maybe, but we don't know."

The study, funded with an initial $8 million from the government and $6 million from BP PLC, aims to follow 55,000 former cleanup workers for up to a decade. It will be the biggest study ever of an oil spill's health effects, federal officials said. It will look at everything from skin rashes to respiratory problems to potential increased cancer risk.

The BP spill poured an estimated 4.1 million gallons of oil into the Gulf between late April, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, and mid-July, when the leaking well was capped.

At the height of the spill cleanup, in mid-July, some 47,000 people were working on it, officials said. Some shuffled paper in offices. Some shoveled oil off beaches. Some manned boats near the site of the ruptured well, skimming and burning the slick of oil off the Gulf's surface. About 7,000 people are working on the cleanup, officials said.