DNA damage related to exposure to oil spills: The Prestige experience

Beatriz Pérez-Cadahía, Josefina Méndez, Eduardo Pásaro, Vanessa Valdiglesias, Blanca Laffon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Oil spills are one of the most frequent ecological disasters giving rise to the pollution of enormous coastal areas and affecting also the local flora and fauna. As a direct consequence of them, a large number of individuals is always involved, as they take part in the different tasks derived from the need of cleaning the spilled oil and recovering the natural environments. From a toxicological point of view, oil is a complex mixture of compounds that can penetrate into the body burden through dermal, respiratory or digestive routes. Despite the huge number of spills occurred all around the world, the international literature dealing with the harmful effects of this exposure is very scarce and restricted to the acute and psychological effects. This seems paradoxical attending to the large number of carcinogenic agents composing this mixture. So, after the Prestige oil spill (November 2002, NW of Spain) and taking into account the seriousness of the catastrophe, the large number of individuals involved, the damaging character of oil components and especially the lack in the scientific literature of reports considering the consequences of this exposure from a genotoxic or carcinogenic point of view, we developed an extensive biomonitoring study including effect and susceptibility biomarkers. Three groups of exposed individuals whose exposure during the recovery of Prestige oil polluted areas differed quantitatively (short and acute or more prolonged in time) and qualitatively (as a consequence of the different methods used for this purpose) were included. Environmental concentrations of volatile organic compounds were evaluated by means of passive dosimeters in each exposure group. Two types of effect biomarkers were applied: the comet assay, characterized by its high sensitivity in population studies and for reflecting also DNA repair phenomena, and two well established cytogenetic assays, micronucleus test and sister chromatid exchanges. Moreover, due to the fact that individual differences in terms of susceptibility to xenobiotics have been extensively reported and mainly attributed to some polymorphisms in genes encoding for biotransformation enzymes and DNA repair proteins with functional consequences, a complete set of the most relevant were also included in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDNA Research, Genetics and Cell Biology
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)9781611227925
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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    Pérez-Cadahía, B., Méndez, J., Pásaro, E., Valdiglesias, V., & Laffon, B. (2011). DNA damage related to exposure to oil spills: The Prestige experience. In DNA Research, Genetics and Cell Biology (pp. 29-60). Nova Science Publishers, Inc..