Human Exposure to Crude Oil Spills Lead to Health Effects

Author Information Mark A. D'Andrea, MD, FACRO , G. Kesava Reddy, PhD, MHA


Human exposure to crude oil spills is associated with multiple adverse health effects including hematopoietic, hepatic, renal, and pulmonary abnormalities. The purpose of this study was to assess the hematological and liver function indices among the subjects participated in the Gulf oil spill clean-up operations in comparison with the standardized normal range reference values.

Using medical charts, clinical data including white blood cell (WBC) count, platelets count, hemoglobin, hematocrit, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) creatinine, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), aspartate amino transferase (AST), alanine amino transferase (ALT), and urinary phenol were gathered for the subjects who were exposed to the Gulf oil spill and analyzed.

A total of 117 subjects exposed to the oil spill were included. Over 77% of subjects had WBC counts in the mid range (6 - 10 X 103 per μL) while none of the subjects had upper limit of the normal range (11 X 103 per μL). Similar pattern was seen in the platelet counts and BUN levels among the oil spill exposed subjects. Conversely, over 70% of the subjects had creatinine levels toward upper limit of the normal and 23% of subjects had creatinine levels above the upper limit of the normal range (> 1.3 mg per dL). Similarly, hemoglobin and hematocrit levels were toward the upper limit of the normal in more than two-third of the subjects. AST and ALT levels above the upper limit of normal range (> 40 IU per L) were seen in 15% and 31% of subjects, respectively. Over 80% of subjects had urinary phenol levels more than detectable levels (2 mg per L).

The results of this study support our earlier study findings in which we found that people who participated in oil spill clean-up activities are at risk of developing alterations in hematological profile and liver function.

Key words
Chemical exposure; Health impact; Hematological toxicity; Hepatotoxicity; Urinary phenol

Conflict of Interest: None.

Verification: All authors listed in the manuscript had access to the data and a role in preparing the manuscript.

Funding source: None

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.