BACKGROUND: The burden of silicosis, pulmonary tuberculosis and COPD is described in 624
South African goldminers 18 months after cessation of work.
METHODS: This was a prevalence study. Questionnaires were administered, and spirometry,
chest radiography, tuberculosis investigations, and urine HIV antibody assays were
RESULTS: Attendance was 80.1% (624/779), mean age 49.4 years, and mean employment
duration 25.6 years. Most subjects had had medium (26.5%) or high (65.4%) dust-exposure
jobs. Current smoking rate was 35%, with ever smoking 61%. HIV antibodies were detected
in the urine in 22.3%. Prevalences were: silicosis 24.6%, past tuberculosis 26%, current
tuberculosis 6.2%, airflow obstruction 13.4% and chronic productive cough 17.7%. Almost
50% of these miners had at least one of these respiratory conditions.
CONCLUSIONS: A heavy burden of silicosis, tuberculosis and COPD was present in this group
of former goldminers. Intensification of work place dust control measures and TB and HIV
prevention activities are needed on South African gold mines. In labour sending communities
investment is needed in silicosis and tuberculosis surveillance as well as HIV treatment and