Quality of Work Environment and Frequency of Work-Related Dermatitis Among Dust-Exposed African Informal Coltan Miners

  • Ngombe Leon-Kabamba
  • Nlandu Roger Ngatu
  • Etongola Papy Mbelambela
  • Melaku Haile Likka
  • Sakatolo Jean-Baptiste Kakoma
  • Numbi Oscar Luboya
  • Roger Wumba
  • Brigitta Danuser


Work-related dermatitis (WRD) represents a broad range of skin conditions such as irritant (ICD) and allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), as well as atopic eczema, that are either caused by or exacerbated by activities at work. In 2010, WRD affected 15.2 million American workers, representing 9.8% of the US working population. In 2016, we conducted the first “Congo Coltan Miners’ Health Study.” The present report comprises findings related to WRD. Here, data from 398 workers (199 coltan miners matched to 199 unexposed office workers) are reported. Workstation air quality (PM2.5 and volatile organic compounds or VOC levels) was monitored using BRAMC Air Quality Monitor BR-AIR-329. Each participant answered two questionnaires related to skin and respiratory health. Higher PM2.5 levels were detected at coltan miners’ workstations as compared with control sites (range, 180–210 μg/m3 vs. 19–44 μg/m3, respectively; p < 0.001); similarly, higher VOC levels were also found in coltan miners’ workstations (range, 1.4–2.3 vs. 0.5–0.8, respectively; p < 0.05). Additionally, markedly higher proportion of miners reported dermatitis for the last 12-month period (37% vs. 7%) and in the previous years as compared with controls (36.2% vs. 7%, respectively; p < 0.001). Furthermore, coltan mining work was strongly associated with WRD in the last 12-month period (aOR = 4.88 ± 1.15; 95% CI, 2.06–11.33) and in the previous years (aOR = 9.48 ± 12.3; 95% CI, 3.74–120.49). This first study on African informal coltan miners’ health showed striking results, with high dust exposure levels (PM2.5, VOC) and high frequency of WRD, suggesting the necessity to implement dust control measures to improve occupational safety in coltan mining settings.


Africa Coltan miner Particulate matter Tantalum Volatile organic compound Work-related dermatitis 



Allergic contact dermatitis


Irritant contact dermatitis


Particulate matter


Personal protective equipment


Volatile organic compound


Work-related dermatitis


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ngombe Leon-Kabamba
    • 1
  • Nlandu Roger Ngatu
    • 2
    • 3
  • Etongola Papy Mbelambela
    • 4
  • Melaku Haile Likka
    • 5
  • Sakatolo Jean-Baptiste Kakoma
    • 6
  • Numbi Oscar Luboya
    • 1
    • 6
  • Roger Wumba
    • 7
  • Brigitta Danuser
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Public Health, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of KaminaKaminaCongo
  2. 2.Graduate School of MedicineInternational University of Health and Welfare (IUHW)ChibaJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of Public HealthInternational University of Health and Welfare (IUHW)TokyoJapan
  4. 4.Department of Environmental Medicine, Kochi Medical SchoolKochi UniversityNankokuJapan
  5. 5.Department of Healthcare Information Science, Kochi Medical SchoolKochi UniversityNankokuJapan
  6. 6.School of Public HealthUniversity of LubumbashiLubumbashiCongo
  7. 7.Department of Tropical Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of KinshasaKinshasaCongo
  8. 8.Service of Occupational Medicine, Institute for Work and HealthUniversity of Lausanne and GenevaEpalinges-LausanneSwitzerland

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