38 years of autopsy findings in South African mine workers.Am J Ind Med. 2016 Apr; 59(4):307-14.AJ
South African miners have a statutory right to autopsies for occupational lung disease compensation. These autopsies also provide information for research and surveillance.
Cardio-respiratory organs are removed where miners die and are examined at the National Institute for Occupational Health. We extracted data from the PATHAUT database and described key demographic, exposure and disease trends (1975-2013).
Of 109,101 autopsies, 72,348 (66.3%) were black, and 34,794 (31.9%) were white miners. Autopsies declined from over 3,000 (1975-1998) to 1,118 in 2013. Most were gold miners (74.0%). 78.6% black and 13.2% white miners died while in employment. Overall proportions of silicosis and pulmonary tuberculosis were 12.0% and 13.0% in black, and 20.5% and 2.4% in white miners, respectively. Disease increased over time.
High levels of disease persist. Black ex-miners are underrepresented, indicating a need for strategies to improve awareness and provision of autopsy facilities in labor-sending areas.