People living on the coast of Pakistan affected by the Tasman Spirit oil spill, in August 2003, experience more health problems than individuals living inland. A study published today in the open access journal BMC Public Health (http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpublichealth/
) reveals that individuals living on the coast of Karachi, near the oil spill, report an average of 14 different health symptoms. This is more than three times the number reported by populations living two or 20 kilometres away from the coast.
In the first study of its kind coming from a less developed country affected by an oil spill, Naveed Janjua and colleagues from Aga Khan University in Karachi, the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency in Karachi and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA, studied a group of 216 individuals living on the coast of Karachi. The study period started in September 2003, 3 weeks after the Tasman Spirit spilled its oil off the coast of Karachi. Janjua et al. also studied a group of 83 individuals living two kilometres from the coast and a group of 101 individuals living 20 kilometres from the coast. The authors asked participants to fill in a questionnaire about their living conditions and their health - in particular about a list of 48 symptoms including eye, skin, respiratory, gastrointestinal and general symptoms.
Janjua et al.'s results show that the group living on the coast near the oil spill reported having more multiple health problems than the other two groups. Out of the list of 48 symptoms investigated, the group living on the coast reported having a mean symptom score of 14.1, compared with a score of 4.4 for the group living two kilometres away and 3.8 for the group living 20 kilometres inland. The authors conclude that the long-term effects of crude oil spills on the health of local populations should be further investigated.
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