Author(s): T. Kootbodien, S. Iyaloo, K. Wilson, N. Naicker, S. Kgalamono et al.

Source: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2019, 16, 1867


Background: Occupational crystalline silica dust exposure is associated with an elevated risk of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB). However, there is less evidence for an association with environmental silica dust exposure.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of 310 participants was conducted in an exposed community living within 2 km of gold mine tailings and an unexposed population residing more than 10 km from the nearest gold mine tailing. Chest radiographs (n = 178) were read for PTB, past or current, by three readers.

Results: Past or current PTB was radiologically identified in 14.4% (95%CI 9.2–21.8) in the exposed and 7.5% (95%CI 2.8–18.7) in the unexposed groups. Multivariate logistic regression models suggested that PTB prevalence was independently associated with exposure to second-hand smoke (OR = 8.13, 95%CI 1.16–57.22), a lower body mass index (OR = 0.88, 95%CI 0.80–0.98), previous diagnosis and treatment of PTB (OR = 8.98, 95%CI 1.98–40.34), and exposure to dust in the workplace from sand, construction, and/or mining industries (OR = 10.2, 95%CI 2.10–50.11).

Conclusion: We found no association between PTB and environmental exposure to gold mine tailing dust. However, workplace silica dust exposure is a significant risk factor for PTB in South Africa, and PTB patients of working age should be screened for silica exposure.

Keywords: pulmonary tuberculosis; occupational dust exposure; silica; silica-related tuberculosis;
occupational history