1Department of Preventive Medicine, Dankook University College of Medicine, Korea. firstname.lastname@example.org 2Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University, Korea. 3Citizen's Institute of Environmental Studies, Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, Korea. 4Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Korea.
OBJECTIVES: Our objective is to review and summarize the previous studies on the health effects of exposure to oil spills in order to make suggestions for mid- and long-term study plans regarding the health effects of the Hebei Spirit oil spill occured in Korea. METHODS: We searched PubMed to systemically retrieve reports on the human health effects related to oil spill accidents. The papers' reference lists and reviews on the topic were searched as well. RESULTS: We found 24 articles that examined seven oil spill accidents worldwide over the period from 1989 to August 2008, including the Exxon Valdes, Braer, Sea Empress, Erika, Nakhodka, Prestige and Tasman Spirit oil spills. Most of the studies applied cross-sectional and short-term follow-up study designs. The exposure level was measured by assessing the place of residence, using a questionnaire and environmental and personal monitoring. Studies on the acute or immediate health effects mainly focused on the subjective physical symptoms related to clean-up work or residential exposure. Late or mid-term follow-up studies were performed to investigate a range of health effects such as pulmonary function and endocrine, immunologic and genetic toxicity. The economic and social impact of the accidents resulted in the socio-psychological exposure and the psychosocial health effects. CONCLUSIONS: Studies of the health effects of exposure to oil spills should consider a range of health outcomes, including the physical and psychological effects, and the studies should be extended for a considerable period of time to study the long-term chronic health effects.