OBJECTIVE: The objetive of this study is to assess the level of oxidative stress by the exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in volunteers who cleaned up the crude oil spilled from the Hebei Spirit on the Coast of Taean County, Korea. METHODS: The study subjects were 46 volunteers and 37 controls from the National Institute of Environmental Research. A self-administered questionnaire was used for volunteers to examine their working environment and health effects. Urinary concentrations of hippuric acid, 1-hydroxypyrene, and 2-naphthol were measured as exposure markers for VOCs and PAHs, and urinary thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) and 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) levels were measured as oxidative stress markers. RESULTS: Sixty-four percent of the respondents presented a variety of symptoms, including sore eyes and throat, nausea, dizziness, headache, low back pain, and leg pain after participating in the cleanup operation. Urinary 2-naphthol and TBARS concentrations appeared higher in the volunteers. Univariate and multivariate analyses showed that urinary TBARS and 8-OHdG levels were positively correlated with urinary 2-naphthol and 1-hydroxypyrene concentrations respectively, especially among the volunteers. CONCLUSIONS: The result implies that participating in cleanup work of oil spills may have a possibility to induce oxidative damage by exposure to PAHs in crude oil.