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Lung function, blood gases, pH and serum electrolytes of small-scale miners exposed to chrome ore dust on the Great Dyke in Zimbabwe

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We measured and compared lung function indices and some blood parameters (gases, electrolytes, glucose, pH, red cell indices) of 54 male small-scale miners (SSM) chronically exposed to chrome ore dust to those of 50 nonmining control subjects (NMC) and 46 large-scale chrome miners (LSM) who had taken internationally recommended precautionary measures (secondary control). The respirable dust level in the SSM environment (6.0 ± 0.5 mg/m3) was significantly higher (< 0.001) than in the NMC and LSM environments (0.3 ± 0.1 mg/m3 and 0.5 ± 0.3 mg/m3, respectively). There were no significant differences in neither dust levels nor lung function status between NMC and LSM environments. The values of FVC, FEV1, PEFR and FEV1% of the SSM were 3.5 ± 0.09 l, 2.61 ± 0.09 l, 6.07 ± 0.36 l/second and 76.19 ± 2.36%, respectively. These values were significantly lower than those of NMC (< 0.01, respectively). However, the blood parameters of the SSM and NMC were not significantly different. The results are indicative of both restrictive and obstructive ventilatory defects in the SSM which may be attributed exposure to chrome ore dust in the environment. Associated risk factors appear to be advancing age, prolonged exposure to chrome ore dust and acid base disturbance.
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Keywords: chrome ore dust; lung function; miners

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe. 2: Department of Anaesthetics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe 3: Department of Chemical Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe

Publication date: September 1, 1999

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