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Erectile dysfunction and mining-related jobs: an explorative study in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo


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.

  • metals
  • mining
  • metal refining
  • sildenafil
  • IIEF questionnaire
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