Effects of commodity on the risk of emphysema in South African miners

Sithembile L. Mabila*, Kirsten S. Almberg, Lee Friedman, Robert A. Cohen, Ntombizodwa Ndlovu, Naseema Vorajee, Jill Murray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: To examine associations between mine commodity such as coal, platinum, or diamonds and emphysema among South African miners at autopsy. Methods: We examined the association between mine commodity and emphysema using the Pathology Automation (PATHAUT) database, 1975–2014. Exposure was characterized as longest tenure in each commodity. We constructed separate multivariable logistic regression models for black and white miners. Smoking was assessed in a sub-analysis of white miners. Results: Among black miners, coal mining was significantly associated with increased odds of emphysema [OR = 2.39 (95% CI 1.86, 3.07)] when compared to gold mining. Asbestos was also associated with significantly increased odds of emphysema among black miners [OR = 1.47 (95% CI 1.01, 2.12)]. No associations between commodity and emphysema were observed among white miners. Cumulative years of exposure and age at death were significant predictors for emphysema for both black and white miners. Smoking was a significant predictor of emphysema in the sub-analysis of white miners with smoking information, but no effect of commodity was observed. Conclusions: We observed a significant association between coal mining and emphysema among black miners. Adverse health effects of coal mining are evidenced by more than twofold increase in emphysema among black coal miners compared to gold miners. This suggests that South African Coal miners are exposed to high dust concentrations or more damaging components compared to other commodities, resulting in elevated risk of emphysema.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-323
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Commodity
  • Emphysema
  • Mining
  • Occupation
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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