Medical surveillance in the mining industry is required by law. The NIOH conducts statutory autopsies on deceased miners and as a result has access to medical records of several thousands of workers through the Pathology Automation (PATHAUT) database. The NIOH also has access to medical records kept at the Adler Museum for Medical History (AMMH) of the University of the Witwatersrand and as such is in a position to review medical records of miners as far back as the beginning of the 20th century. One of the projects under this focus area specifically looks at Chinese indentured miners and Black migrant miners during the early 1900s.
Migrant workers are at high risk of contracting respiratory and sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV) whilst working in the mining industry. The NIOH has the opportunity to assess the long term survival and measure sickness in nearly 2000 gold miners with known dates of HIV infection, by using data and records already routinely collected on South African mine workers. A similar project is conducted in the platinum mining industry.
Most recently the NIOH has embarked on a collaborative, multidisciplinary study into the neuropathologic effects of low to moderate level manganese exposure in South African miners, in an attempt to clarify the potential role of environmental metals in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease.
The following projects are classified under this focus area: