Occupational and environmental medicine

After the explosion in Gulen

This is a joint project between Helse Bergen/Haukeland University Hospital and the University of Bergen. The health problems of the people in Gulen will be identified in the aftermath of the explosion.

Main content

On May 24th 2007, two tanks at Vest Tank’s facility in Sløvåg in the Gulen municipality, exploded.  The explosion led to an intense fire and a black cloud of smoke settled down on a large area in Gulen and Masfjorden municipalities. The tanks contained petroleum products, including sulphur products after desulphuring of such.


Later, reports of strong smells in the environment around the plant came, and also the employees in Sløvåg and the inhabitants in Gulen and Masfjorden municipalities reported symptoms of health problems. The area was not cleaned up, and smell and ailments continued. On July 9th 2008 a public meeting was held in Gulen and Masfjorden, where among others the Minister of the Environment, Erik Solheim, and the Director of the Norwegian Directorate of Health Bjørn Inge Larsen were present. In this meeting, it was promised that those who were exposed in the accident in Sløvåg should be offered a medical examination. In July 2008 a request was sent to Helse Bergen enquiring whether they could be willing to undertake this study.

Helse Bergen got the following mandate from the Norwegian Directorate of Health dated July 10th, 2008:

We mean there is a good reason for performing a health examination of the exposed:

1. It is important that people’s health issues are taken seriously.

2. We want the people who are having problems to get an offer of an examination, registration of ailments and that samples are taken for current and possible future analysis.

3. We want to learn from the incident, both by obtaining knowledge of problems the individual person has, or has had, and consequences for the community after an incident like this.

4. The Norwegian Directorate of Health wishes that a survey like this can have effect, both by giving good information and a follow up of the sick, and that it can help us plan better on a community level for a possible chemical accident in the future.


The first phase of the project is carried out as a co-operation between Helse Bergen/Haukeland University Hospital and the Research Group for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Bergen. From November 2008 until April 2009, over 1000 persons from Masfjorden and Gulen were invited to participate in a health survey with focus on reactions after the explosion at Vest Tank. A report from the survey is available in Norwegian. Further surveys of the population are planned; however, the financing is uncertain.

Regardless, we will conduct a survey of the population in the autumn of 2010.