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Asthma in goldminers

Robert L Cowie
Salmon K. Mabena


Objectives. To detennine whether asthma in goldminers is caused by or contributed to by their working environment.
Design. A case-control stUdy in which men with asthma working underground in goldmines were compared with underground goldminers without asthma in relation to their age, duration of exposure to the underground environment, atopy and family history of asthma
Setting. An in- and outpatient facility providing for the medical needs of approXimately 90 000 miners employed on goldmines in the Free State.
Outcome measures. Occupational history, atopy and family history of asthma were compared in the two groups. The age of onset of asthma and duration of occupational exposure were examined in the men with asthma.
Results. The study sample included 78 underground miners with asthma and 46 without asthma The men in the two groups were of similar age, but those with asthma had worked underground for a longer period than the men without asthma Twenty of the asthmatic and none of the control group had been exposed to paint and cement in the course of their work. Fifty of the asthmatic and only 3 of the control group were atopic. The mean age of onset of asthma (% SO) was 30.6 % 10.73 years. Six of the men had developed asthma before starting to work in the mines, and the disease had developed 13.4 ± 8.22 years after starting to work underground in the remaining 72.
Conclusion. The late age of onset and the onset after exposure to the underground environment suggest that the disease was work-related.