Objectives: On December 7, 2007, the Hebei Spirit oil tanker spilled out 12,547 kl of crude oil on the Yellow Sea 10 km away from the cost of Taean Province, Korea. As the coastline has been contaminated, local residents have been exposed to crude oil. Because the residents were showing many symptoms, we investigated the acute health effects of this oil spill on them.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study consisting of the heavy and moderately oil soaked area in Taean and the lightly oil soaked area in Seocheon. Ten seashore villages were selected from each area, and 10 male and female adults were selected from each village. We interviewed the subjects using a structured questionnaire on the characteristics of residents, the cleanup activities, the perception of oil hazard, depression and anxiety, and the physical symptoms. The odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were analyzed using logistic regression analysis. The logistic regression model was adjusted for age, gender, education, smoking, the perception of oil hazard and anxiousness.
Results: The more highly contaminated the area, the more likely it was for residents to be engaged in cleanup activities and have a greater chance of exposure to oil. The indexes of anxiety and depression were higher in the heavy and moderately oil soaked areas. The increased risks of headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, tingling of limb, hot flushing, sore throat, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath, itchy skin, rash, and sore eyes were significant.
Conclusions: The results suggest that exposure to crude oil is associated with various acute physical symptoms. Long-term investigation is required to monitor the residents' health.