Prevalence of occupational lung disease in a random sample of former mineworkers, Libode District, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

Am J Ind Med. 1998 Oct;34(4):305-13. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199810)34:4<305::aid-ajim2>;2-r.


Background: Gold mineworkers in South Africa are exposed to high levels of silica dust as a result of which they are at risk of developing silicosis, which is a compensable disease. The incidence of tuberculosis is also high.

Methods: To determine the prevalence of occupational lung disease and the previous compensation history in former migrant mineworkers, a study was undertaken in a random sample of men living in Libode, a rural district of Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Two hundred thirty-eight ex-mineworkers were examined according to a protocol that included chest radiography and spirometry. Chest radiographs were read into the International Labour Organisation (ILO) classification for pneumoconioses by two readers.

Results: The mean age was 52.8 years, and the mean length of service was 12.15 years. The prevalence of pneumoconiosis (> or = ILO 1/0) was 22% and 36% (variation by reader). For both readers, a significant association between length of service and pneumoconiosis and between pneumoconiosis and reduction in FVC and FEV was found. Twenty-four percent of study subjects were eligible for compensation.

Conclusion: There is a high prevalence of previously undiagnosed, uncompensated pneumoconiosis in the study group. As a result of the failure to diagnose and compensate occupational lung disease, the social and economic burden of such disease is being borne by individuals, households, and the migrant labor-sending communities as a whole.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Gold*
  • Humans
  • Job Description
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pneumoconiosis / diagnosis
  • Pneumoconiosis / epidemiology*
  • Pneumoconiosis / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Radiography
  • Random Allocation
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Spirometry
  • Survival Rate
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnostic imaging


  • Gold