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Persistent respiratory symptoms in clean-up workers 5 years after the Prestige oil spill

Thursday, May 23th, 2013

The aim of this study led by Jan-Paul Zock, researcher at Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) and published in Archivos de Prevención de Riesgos Laborales, was to evaluate the persistence of these respiratory symptoms 5 years after clean-up work among the fishermen who had participated in clean-up activities of the Prestige oil spill who previously showed an excess risk of respiratory symptoms 1-2 years later.

Subgroups of fishermen who had been exposed to clean-up work and non-exposed individuals were re-interviewed by telephone in 2008, including the same symptom questions as in the initial survey. Associations between participation in clean-up work and respiratory symptoms were assessed using log-binomial and multinomial regression analyses adjusting for sex, age and smoking.

The prevalence of lower respiratory tract symptoms (including shortness of breath, cough and phlegm) had slightly decreased in both groups, but remained higher among the exposed. The risk of having persistent respiratory symptoms increased with the degree of exposure and for moderately and highly exposed, when compared with those without any symptoms. Findings for nasal symptoms and for respiratory medication usage were similar.

Participation in clean-up activities of oil spills may result in respiratory symptoms that persist up to 5 years after exposure. “Guidelines for preventive measures and a continued surveillance of clean-up workers of oil spills are necessary”, concluded Zock.


Zock JP, Rodríguez-Trigo G, Rodríguez-Rodríguez E, Espinosa A, Pozo-Rodríguez F, Gómez F, Fuster C, Castaño-Vinyals G, Antó JM, Barberà JA. Síntomas respiratorios persistentesen los limpiadores cinco años después del vertido de petróleo del Prestige. Arch Prev Riesgos Labor 2013; 16 (2): 98-99 


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