Environmental nickel exposure from oil refinery emissions: a case study in Ecuador

Ann Ist Super Sanita. 2016 Oct-Dec;52(4):495-499. doi: 10.4415/ANN_16_04_06.


Introduction: Nickel is a strong skin and respiratory sensitizer and a recognized carcinogen. Oil refineries are important sources of atmospheric emissions of toxic pollutants, including nickel. Populations residing close to oil refineries are at potential risk. The aim of this study was to evaluate the exposure to nickel in a population living close to the largest oil refinery in Ecuador, located in the city of Esmeraldas.

Methodology: We recruited 47 workers from the oil refinery as well as 195 students from 4 different schools close to the plant and 94 students from another school 25 km far from the industry. Urinary nickel concentrations were used to assess the exposure to nickel.

Results: Students from the school next to the oil refinery showed the highest urinary nickel concentrations while workers from the refinery showed the lowest concentrations. Median nickel concentrations were > 2µg/L in all study groups.

Conclusions: The populations living close to the oil refineries are potentially exposed to nickel from atmospheric emissions. Further studies investigating nickel-related health effects in the population residing close to the refinery of Esmeralda are needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Ecuador
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nickel / analysis
  • Nickel / toxicity*
  • Nickel / urine
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Petroleum Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Students
  • Young Adult


  • Nickel