Endocrine and immunological parameters in individuals involved in Prestige spill cleanup tasks seven years after the exposure

Environ Int. 2013 Sep;59:103-11. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2013.05.014. Epub 2013 Jun 20.


In November 2002 the oil tanker Prestige spilled 63,000tonnes of heavy oil off the northwest coast of Spain, impacting more than 1000km of coastline. A general concern led to a huge mobilization of human and technical resources, and more than 300,000 people participated in cleanup activities, which lasted up to 10months. Some endocrine and immunological alterations were reported in Prestige oil exposed subjects for several months. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate if these alterations are still present seven years after the exposure. Fifty-four individuals exposed for at least 2months were compared to 50 matched referents. Prolactin and cortisol plasma concentrations, percentages of lymphocyte subsets (CD3(+), CD4(+), CD8(+), CD19(+), and CD56(+)16(+)), plasma levels of circulating cytokines (interleukin (IL) 2, IL4, IL6, IL10, tumour necrosis factor α, and interferon γ), and serum concentrations of neopterin, tryptophan and kynurenine were determined in peripheral blood samples. Results showed significant differences in exposed individuals vs. referents only in cortisol (increase), kynurenine and %CD16(+)56(+) lymphocytes (both decrease). Time of exposure to the oil or using protective clothes did not influence the results, but effect of using protective mask was observed on neopterin, %CD8(+), CD4(+)/CD8(+) ratio and IL4. Surveillance of the exposed individuals for early detection of possible health problems related to the endocrine or immunological systems is recommended.

Keywords: CI; Circulating cytokines; EDTA; ELISA; Endocrine toxicity; GTP; HPLC; HPW; IDO; IFN; IL; Kyn/Trp; Lymphocyte subsets; NK; Neopterin; Prestige oil spill; TNF; Tryptophan degradation; confidence interval; enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid; guanosine triphosphate; high-performance liquid chromatography; high-pressure water jets; indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase; interferon; interleukin; kynurenine to tryptophan ratio; natural killer cells; tumour necrosis factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chemical Hazard Release*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Kynurenine / blood
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects
  • Male
  • Neopterin / blood
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Petroleum Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Spain
  • Tryptophan / blood


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Kynurenine
  • Neopterin
  • Tryptophan
  • Prolactin
  • Hydrocortisone