Respiratory health and silicosis in artisanal mine workers in southern Brazil

2021-03-28

Background: Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) are an important source of employment in southern Brazil. Mining workers are frequently exposed to unhealthy work conditions which increase the risk of occupational diseases. In this study, we assessed the association of sociodemographic factors and the occupational history of artisanal mining workers with the risk of adverse respiratory outcomes. Methods: The study was conducted with 258 artisanal mining workers in southern Brazil, who were exposed to dust (mainly crystalline silica) in their work. Information on sociodemographic variables and occupational histories was collected between 2017 and 2018. To estimate the worker’s exposure to inhalable dust we use the Advanced REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals) Tool (ART).

Results: Study participants were all men, with an average age of 40 years. Median crude dust exposure estimated by ART was 13.2 mg/m³ and median crude crystalline silica exposure was 1.6 mg/m3 . The prevalence ratio (PR) for self-reported silicosis was 3.08 (95% confidence interval, 1.39-7.17) in workers with 20 years or more of mining work. Factors associated with silicosis were age, pack-years of tobacco use, and body mass index. Smokers were over twice as likely to report respiratory symptoms. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that a high prevalence of silicosis and other associated diseases in mining workers is associated with both unhealthy work environment conditions and the health profile of workers. This study is an important step for understanding health outcomes from work in ASM.

Authors: Tamires P Souza, Martie van Tongeren, Inês Monteiro
; Full Source: American journal of industrial medicine 2021 Mar 28. doi: 10.1002/ajim.23242.