A literature review on health effects of exposure to oil spill

Mina Ha, Won Jin Lee, Seungmin Lee, Hae Kwan Cheong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Our objective is to review and summarize the previous studies on the health effects of exposure to oil spills in order to make suggestions for mid- and long-term study plans regarding the health effects of the Hebei Spirit oil spill occured in Korea. Methods: We searched PubMed to systemically retrieve reports on the human health effects related to oil spill accidents. The papers' reference lists and reviews on the topic were searched as well. Results: We found 24 articles that examined seven oil spill accidents worldwide over the period from 1989 to August 2008, including the Exxon Valdes, Braer, Sea Empress, Erika, Nakhodka, Prestige and Tasman Spirit oil spills. Most of the studies applied cross-sectional and short-term follow-up study designs. The exposure level was measured by assessing the place of residence, using a questionnaire and environmental and personal monitoring. Studies on the acute or immediate health effects mainly focused on the subjective physical symptoms related to clean-up work or residential exposure. Late or mid-term follow-up studies were performed to investigate a range of health effects such as pulmonary function and endocrine, immunologic and genetic toxicity. The economic and social impact of the accidents resulted in the socio-psychological exposure and the psychosocial health effects. Conclusions: Studies of the health effects of exposure to oil spills should consider a range of health outcomes, including the physical and psychological effects, and the studies should be extended for a considerable period of time to study the long-term chronic health effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-354
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Sept


  • Accidents
  • Health
  • Petroleum
  • Review
  • Transportation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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