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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


SAN SEBASTIAN, Miguel; ARMSTRONG, Ben  and  STEPHENS, Carolyn. The health of women who live near oil wells and oil production stations in the Amazon region of Ecuador. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2001, vol.9, n.6, pp.375-383. ISSN 1680-5348.

Objective. Investigate the environmental conditions in and the state of health of women who live in rural communities surrounded by oil wells and oil production stations in the Amazon region of Ecuador. Method. We used a comparative cross-sectional design, classifying exposure according to the location of the communities with respect to the oil wells and production stations. Water samples from the local rivers were analyzed to determine total petroleum hydrocarbons, and a structured questionnaire was used with the head of each family in the study. The study was performed in rural communities in northeastern Ecuador from November 1998 through April 1999. The study included 9 communities in the exposed area (368 participants) and 14 communities in the unexposed area (291 participants). Results. The rivers of the exposed communities showed contamination levels much above the limits acceptable for human use. Statistically significant differences between the exposed communities and the unexposed communities were found for the prevalence of skin fungi for the two weeks prior to the study (odds ratio (OR) = 1.37; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.01-1.86) as well as for nasal irritation (OR = 2.18, 95% CI = 1.64-2.91) and for throat irritation (OR = 1.68, 95% CI = 1.02-2.75) in the preceding 12 months. Also associated with exposure in the two preceding weeks were fatigue and the category of "other symptoms"; similarly associated with exposure in the preceding 12 months were headaches, eye irritation, earaches, diarrhea, and gastritis. Conclusions. The symptoms found among the participants in the exposed communities match the toxicity symptoms caused by oil. There is an urgent need to establish an adequate environmental control and remediation program in order to prevent unnecessary and unacceptable health hazards for these populations.

Keywords : Salud de la mujer; salud ambiental; toxicidad por petróleo; hidrocarburos.

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