Introduction The African Copperbelt is a site of intense artisanal and industrial mining and refining of copper and cobalt. Anecdotal reports of erectile dysfunction (ED) among mineworkers in the area led us to conduct an explorative study to investigate the possible association between ED and working in mining-related jobs.
Methods We included 42 consecutive men (18–40 years) buying sildenafil (the active substance of Viagra) from a pharmacy located in a popular neighbourhood in Lubumbashi, and 42 age-matched (±2 years) men buying painkillers. All participants replied to questionnaires administered face-to-face to obtain sociodemographic data, including information on occupation, and a score of erectile function using the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF6).
Results The IIEF6 score (maximum 30) was lower among sildenafil-buyers (median 17, range 8–30) than among painkiller-buyers (median 30, range 17–30). The proportion of mining-related jobs was higher among sildenafil-buyers (19/42, 45%) than among painkiller-buyers (7/42, 17%), yielding an OR of 4.1 (95% CI 1.5 to 11.3; p=0.009). The proportion of mining-related jobs was higher among men with ED (defined as IIEF6 <26) (24/45, 54%) than among men without ED (2/39, 5%) (OR 21.1; 95% CI 4.5 to 98.4; p<0.001). Using a more stringent definition of ED (IIEF6 <22) gave similar results: 55% (20/36) of men with ED had a mining-related job versus 13% (6/48) of men without ED (OR 8.7; 95% CI 2.9 to 25.7; p=0.001).
Discussion The findings of this preliminary study justify further epidemiological studies of the possible role of occupational exposures in the pathogenesis of male sexual dysfunction among miners and workers in the copper and cobalt industry.
- metal refining
- IIEF questionnaire
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Contributors PMO designed and conducted the study. PMO and TK-K translated the IIEF-6 questionnaire to Swahili and analysed the data. CBLN and BN supervised the study. PE provided scientific advice before and after the study. PMO and BN wrote the initial drafts of the article. PMO, TK-K, CBLN, PE and BN approved the final version of the article.
Funding This study was part of the NeuroKat project funded by the Académie de Recherche et d’Enseignement Supérieur (ARES) of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles.
Competing interests PMO owns the pharmacy where the study took place.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request.