Participation in clean-up of oil spill associated with airway injury and chromosomal damage

In 2002, the oil tanker Prestige spilled more than 67 000 tons of bunker oil, heavily contaminating the coast of northwestern Spain. The study population included local fishermen who were highly exposed (n = 501) or not exposed (n = 177) to oil. They were evaluated 2 years after the spill.

Elevated markers of airway injury

Persons exposed to oil were at increased risk for lower respiratory tract symptoms (risk difference, 8.0). However, lung function did not significantly differ between the groups. Exposed participants also had higher levels of exhaled vascular endothelial growth factor (risk difference, 44.8) and basic fibroblast growth factor (risk difference, 16.0).

Human chromosomes (grey) capped by telomeres (white). Image source: Wikipedia, public domain.

Chromosomal damage

A higher proportion of exposed participants had structural chromosomal alterations (risk difference, 27.4), predominantly unbalanced alterations.

Participation in clean-up of a major oil spill was associated with persistent respiratory symptoms, elevated markers of airway injury in breath condensate, and chromosomal damage.

References:
Health Changes in Fishermen 2 Years After Clean-up of the Prestige Oil Spill. Ann Intern Med, October 19, 2010, vol. 153 no. 8 489-498.

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