Workers and volunteers who helped in the clean-up effort after the 2002 Prestige oil spill off the Galician coast of Spain exhibit prolonged respiratory symptoms resulting from their exposure, say researchers from Spain in the first study to examine the long-term effects of such exposures on workers respiratory health.
The findings were reported in the second issue for September of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.
In November 2002, the oil taker Prestige sank off the northwestern coast of Spain, spilling about 67,000 tons of oil that contaminated more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline. More than 100,000 workers and volunteers participated in the clean-up effort. During the first few weeks, clean-up work was done mainly by local fishermen and their families. That initial period was characterized by an improvisational approach and a lack of personal protective equipment, according to the study.
Between January 2004 and February 2005, more than two years after the initial disaster, the researchers administered a questionnaire to determine the long-term implications of the clean-up participation on the population of local fishermen who were most directly affected by the disaster. The questionnaire, which could be self-administered or completed through a telephone interview, assessed the fishermens respiratory problems, use of medication for respiratory problems, and their beliefs and level of anxiety and about the health effects of the spill.
Roughly one-third of the nearly 7,000 respondents were women, who were primarily engaged in shellfish farming. Most of the respondents more than half of the women, and two-thirds of the men had directly participated in the clean-up efforts for at least one day, most during the first seven weeks of the spill.
Prevalence rates of lower and upper respiratory tract symptoms were significantly higher in fis
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American Thoracic Society