Fishermen who had participated in clean-up activities of the Prestige oil spill showed increased bronchial responsiveness and higher levels of respiratory biomarkers 2. years later. We aimed to evaluate the persistence of these functional and biological respiratory health effects 6. years after clean-up work. In 2008/2009 a follow-up study was done in 230 never-smoking fishermen who had been exposed to clean-up work in 2002/2003 and 87 non-exposed fishermen. Lung function and bronchial responsiveness testing and the determination of respiratory biomarkers in exhaled breath condensate were done identically as in the baseline survey in 2004/2005. Associations between participation in clean-up work and respiratory health parameters were assessed using linear and logistic regression analyses adjusting for sex and age. Information from 158 exposed (69%) and 57 non-exposed (66%) fishermen was obtained. Loss to follow-up in the non-exposed was characterised by less respiratory symptoms at baseline. During the 4-year follow-up period lung function, bronchial hyperresponsiveness and the levels of respiratory biomarkers of oxidative stress and growth factors had deteriorated notably more among non-exposed than among exposed. At follow-up, respiratory health indices were similar or better in clean-up workers than in non-exposed. No clear differences between highly exposed and moderately exposed clean-up workers were found. In conclusion, we could not detect long-term respiratory health effects in clean-up workers 6. years after the Prestige oil spill. Methodological issues that need to be considered in this type of studies include the choice of a non-exposed control group and limitation of follow-up to subgroups such as never smokers. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
- Emergency responders
- Oil spill