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S Afr Med J. 2001 Jun;91(6):502-8.

Occupational respiratory diseases in South Africa--results from SORDSA, 1997-1999.

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National Centre for Occupational Health, Department of Health, Johannesburg.



To describe the nature and extent of work-related respiratory diseases reported to the national Surveillance of Work-related and Occupational Respiratory Diseases in South Africa (SORDSA) reporting scheme. The causative agents and industrial categories in which they occurred are also characterised.


Voluntary monthly reporting of newly diagnosed cases by pulmonologists, occupational medicine practitioners and occupational health nurses.


Medical and occupational health referral centres in the nine provinces of South Africa.


Cases were workers from non-mining industries or ex-miners, suffering from a newly diagnosed occupational respiratory disease, reported to SORDSA between October 1996 and December 1999.


Frequencies of reported occupational respiratory disease by year, reporting source, province and sex. Frequencies of short- and long-latency diseases by industry and causative agent.


There was incomplete reporting coverage of the nine provinces in the first 3 years. Reporting was most comprehensive from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. Diseases with long latency periods made up 76.2% of the cases. Pneumoconiosis, even in non-mining industries, was the most frequently reported disease, followed by inhalation accidents. Occupational asthma was the fourth most reported disease. Apart from the prominence of pneumoconiosis, the results obtained by SORDSA are similar to those from a British occupational lung disease surveillance scheme. This study showed that newly diagnosed cases of occupational lung disease occurred in many industries and were caused by a variety of agents.


SORDSA has contributed insight into the nature, extent and distribution of occupational respiratory diseases in South Africa. It has also highlighted important causes of occupational respiratory diseases in South Africa, as well as hazardous industries. The data indicate that South Africa has a widespread occupational lung disease problem, and provide a platform for targeted prevention strategies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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