Introduction Mining is one of the most hazardous sectors to work in because it is a sector that predisposes workers to various hazards including dust. Exposure to dust in the mines is inevitable because the whole process of extracting gold has to involve rock breaking. This dust can penetrate up to the alveoli of the pulmonary system and cause respiratory impairment.
Methods Cross-sectional study design was used employing use of questionnaires for data collection on respiratory symptoms. Lung functions were measured using spirometry. Personal respirable dust exposure was collected from similar exposure groups using air sampling pumps. A simple random sampling technique was used to select participants. 112 workers were included in the study. Data analysis was done using SPSS computer software version 16.0.
Results The overall Geometric Mean of respirable dust was 0.26 mg/m3 (GSD=0.32) over a mean sampling time of 8 hours (with a range between 7–11 hours). The GM for underground and open pit were 0.41 mg/m3 (GSD=0.28) and 0.17 mg/m3 (GSD=0.23) respectively. For underground, the GM was highest among bogger operators 0.53 mg/m3 (GSD=0.27) and the least among truck operators 0.29 (GSD=0.37). While for open pit, the highest GM was found among quality controllers 0.39 mg/m3 (GSD=0.18) and the least among in truck operators 0.13 mg/m3 (GSD=0.15). Respiratory symptoms were phlegm (49.1%), Breathlessness (42.9%), cough (37.5%), wheezing (18.8%) and chest tightness (10.7%). Prevalence of airflow obstruction (FEV1/FVC<0.75) was 7.7% among non smoking miners.
Discussion Despite the fact that levels of respirable dust exposure were below recommended occupational exposure limits, prevalence of respiratory symptoms was still high among gold miners. There is a need to conduct further studies on quarts.
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