Respiratory symptoms persist in local fishermen after having participated in cleanup work, according to the September issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study was led by Francisco Pozo-Rodríguez, MD, of the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Respiratorias, Madrid, following the wreckage of the oil tanker Prestige in 2002 off the coast of Spain.

Between January 2004 and February 2005, data were obtained from 6,780 fishermen, 63% of whom participated in cleanup operations.

Results pointed to respiratory tract symptoms (LRTS) that were more prevalent in cleanup workers. This association was consistent for men and women, for different fishermen’s cooperatives, and for different types of respiratory symptoms. The LRTS problems remained after excluding those who reported anxiety or entertained the belief that the oil spill affected their health.

The excess risk of LRTS progressively decreased in groups tested at time intervals of 14 months, 14 to 20 months, and more than 20 months since the last exposure.

The researchers concluded that those involved in cleanup work of oil spills may experience prolonged respiratory symptoms lasting from 1 to 2 years following exposure.

To read the abstract, click here.