Public health issues from crude-oil production in the Ecuadorian Amazon territories

Gabriela Coronel Vargas, William W. Au, Alberto Izzotti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Crude oil production (COP) is a high-pollution industry but the vast Amazon rainforest has been an active COP zone for South America. Although COP has been associated with a variety of health effects among workers around the world, such effects have not been adequately investigated in the Amazon region, especially at the community level. Therefore, this review was conducted to provide a report about COP in the Amazon of Ecuador and about its association with health status of indigenous human populations. Some epidemiological surveys in the Amazonian Territories indicate that COP has been associated with health problems in the surrounding populations, e.g. cancers in the stomach, rectum, skin, soft tissue, kidney and cervix in adults, and leukemia in children. In addition, some biomarkers and mechanistic studies show exposure effects. However, due to limitations from these studies, contradictory associations have been reported. Our review indicates that COP in the Amazonian territories of northern Ecuador was characterised by contamination which could have affected the indigenous and non-indigenous populations. However, there have not been dedicated investigations to provide relationships between the contamination and the subsequent exposure-health effects. Since indigenous populations have different lifestyle and cultures from regular city dwellers, systematic studies on their potential health hazards need to be conducted. Due to the remote locations and sparse populations, these new studies may involve the use of novel and genomic-based biomarkers as well as using high technology in the remote regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134647
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • 1,4-Benzoquinone (CID: 4650)
  • 1-Hydroquinone (CID: 785)
  • 1-hydroxypyrene (CID: 21387).
  • Amazon
  • Benzene (CID: 241)
  • Benzo[a]pyrene (CID: 2336)
  • Crude oil production
  • Ecuador
  • Epidemiology
  • Mercury (CID: 23931)
  • Oil spills
  • Petroleum pollution
  • Toluene (CID: 1140)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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