Health Consequences among Subjects Involved in Gulf Oil Spill Clean-up Activities

Published:September 18, 2013DOI:



      Oil spills are known to affect human health through the exposure of inherent hazardous chemicals such as para-phenols and volatile benzene. This study assessed the adverse health effects of the Gulf oil spill exposure in subjects participating in the clean-up activity along the coast of Louisiana.


      This retrospective study included subjects that had been exposed and unexposed to the oil spill and dispersant. Using medical charts, clinical data including white blood cell count, platelets count, hemoglobin, hematocrit, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), aspartate amino transferase (AST), alanine amino transferase (ALT), and somatic symptom complaints by the subjects were reviewed and analyzed.


      A total of 247 subjects (oil spill exposed, n = 117 and unexposed, n = 130) were included. Hematologic analysis showed that platelet counts (× 103 per μL) were significantly decreased in the exposed group compared with those in the group unexposed to the oil spill (252.1 ± 51.8 vs 269.6 ± 77.3, P = .024). Conversely, the hemoglobin (g per dL) and hematocrit (%) levels were significantly increased among oil spill-exposed subjects compared with the unexposed subjects (P = .000). Similarly, oil spill-exposed subjects had significantly higher levels of ALP (76.3 ± 21.3 vs 61.2 ± 26.9 IU/L, P = .000), AST (31.0 ± 26.3 vs 22.8 ± 11.8 IU/L, P = .004), and ALT (34.8 ± 26.6 vs 29.8 ± 27 IU/L, P = .054) compared with the unexposed subjects.


      The results of this study indicate that clean-up workers exposed to the oil spill and dispersant experienced significantly altered blood profiles, liver enzymes, and somatic symptoms.


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