Congratulatory Letter – Gerry Kuhn


Different Sand Different Places

Sahara Desert - Different Sand Different Places

Do you think that sand is just sand and it’s the same everywhere?  Think again! Sand looks different in different places.  Take a look at this Instagram reel and see how beautiful sand can be.

Omega Concrete – Ready-Mix Concrete Suppliers

Omega Concrete is a ready-mix concrete supplier in Cape Town.

They are situated centrally at Railway Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7915 making them easily accessible to the larger Cape Town area. Omega Concrete also has a second plant situated in Fisantekraal to service new growth nodes.

Omega Concrete are doing regular fallout dust monitoring and has an aggressive Dust Management Plan in place to mitigate the dust being generated on their site.  Omega Concrete has 6 dedicated personnel to deal with dust and paste at the source. The site is well organised, has concreted areas with green grass in places, and is always kept very neat & tidy.

The Dust Team!

What Is Ready Mix Concrete?

RMC (Ready Mix Concrete) is a mixture of sand, stone, cement, and water which hardens to a stone-like consistency. The concrete is batched according to specifications and then transported in concrete mixers to the construction site.

RMC is a high-quality concrete offering great durability. It is often preferred to concrete mixed on-site because it is made with much more precision in terms of the proportion of ingredients and the increased volume that can be delivered.

A pre-determined mixture stops a lot of construction site confusion and time wastage.

RMC has become the world’s most widely used construction material!


There are many applications for RMC:

  • Civil engineering projects – bridges, roads, tunnels, etc.
  • Pouring foundations – in both large and smaller construction sites
  • Building walls, floors, bases, driveways etc.

Concrete is the ultimate “ chameleon”, it can be any colour, assume any shape, and be designed to any strength. The surface can be smooth and polished or rough and rugged – whatever you can imagine, concrete can deliver!


Volume – when a large job requires a large amount of concrete, you can’t go wrong with RMC.

Time – a lot of time is wasted on-site when you have to mix concrete. RMC saves both time and money by arriving on-site ready to use.

Technical -RMC suppliers have the resources and technical expertise to supply a wide range of mixes

Consistency – If you need a specific concrete texture or if you will need various batches of concrete with exactly the same ratio of ingredients, then RMC is the option that will give you the most consistency.

Space – Saves space on a construction site


Ready-mix concrete is ideal for most construction projects. It is a high-quality product, carefully made and delivered to you ready to be used.

Time and money are important considerations in any project, and RMC will save you both and give you peace of mind knowing that the product you are using will give you the best results.

Contact Omega Concrete to find out more or to place an order – 021 879 1827




How to have a healthier work environment

Let’s all try to keep our workplaces safe and productive.
How to have a healthier work environment
Source –
“Nothing makes me angrier than hearing from Managers who are being held to ransom by occupational health (OH) providers who insist on providing expensive medical services when there is no real need.  Once I heard that an OH provider suggested all site staff  have a hearing test, or other workers would feel they were “discriminated” against.  Which wasn’t true – why would you give a hearing test to an administrator who never even went on the shop floor?  It was a total waste of money.
Many companies are looking at costs today and the problem with trying to reduce your occupational health bill is that there’s so much “misinformation” out there, it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s just hot air.  But medical services are expensive and “hot air” of this sort costs.
This article explains the top 5 secrets every business owner needs to know to reduce their occupational health bill, and, incidentally, usually improves the health of the workforce.
Businesses engage an occupational health service when workers use substances or work in processes that could affect their health and make them ill.  The OH service advises an owner, with their expert knowledge of the body, on how to cut down the risks and will do medical checks to make sure there is no harm.  But, if you take away, or eliminate, the dangerous substance or process, there is no need for health checks or advice.
You save money by not having to have an occupational health service, management time (from all the medicals, arrangements and discussions that are not needed) and, most importantly, you completely eradicate the health risk.
Look at your workplace and see if there any health risks from the work.  Is it dusty, noisy, stressful etc?  Listen to your workers – what do they find difficult or uncomfortable?  Check with the HSE website or other similar industries.
Are there jobs that need professional medical input, examples include:
Hearing tests
Breathing tests
Skin checks
Biological tests (for example, blood or urine samples)
Urine tests
Fitness for work checks (for example, safety critical workers, divers, drivers, food handlers, teachers, medical workers)
Vibration white finger
Ways of eliminating the health risk from a managers perspective:
Outsource the work to specialist contractors, for example, asbestos removal contractors
Omitting that particular process/work from the work in your business
Mechanise the process or get robots to do the hazardous part
Use engineering controls to provide a barrier – if you can keep the hazards away from workers, there is no risk
Use different methods of work, for example:
Use liquids instead of a powders
Order smaller packs (to cut down the risk of muscle and back strain)
Damp down dusty areas
It is essential that you check any control methods are working throughout the life of the project.  Things can go wrong.   For chemical substances you can request an annual check of process limits from an industrial hygienist.
It’s critical to remember that Secret 1 is the most effective method of cutting down your occupational health bill.  If you eliminate the risk – end of story.  No health risk and no occupational health service costs
If you can’t eliminate or substitute the process, you will need to control the health risk to a safe limit, so that there are minimal health issues.  How you do this will depend on the hazard/risk.
Ways to consider controlling the risks:
Enclose the process so there is no escape of the hazardous substance or issue
Use local exhaust ventilation (dust extraction) to remove the dust or fume before it gets to the worker
Reduce the time that workers are in close proximity to the hazard
Information, instruction, training and supervision empowers workers to look after their own health and gives the reasons for doing so.
Provide personal protective equipment (PPE)such as gloves, masks, work creams, overalls etc
If you fully control the health risk there is no need to engage an OH service for checking  your control measures, which is, in effect, what they are doing.
It is essential you check that the control methods are working and you can prove this to your workers and regulatory inspectors[1].
Secret 2, whilst being useful can incur long term repeating costs (PPE and buying and maintenance of local exhaust ventilation).  Plus you haven’t taken away the need for an occupational health service to check workers health. Many of the health surveillance programmes are not sensitive to early changes in workers health and it is difficult to identify individual health problems early on.  Health issues can take years to develop so even if the health check is OK one year, there may still be the beginnings of health problems lying in wait (asbestos and radiation effects can take decades to appear).
Statutory medicals such as working with compressed air and lead must have a suitably qualified doctor appointed.  Click here for the list of when statutory medicals are required.
Absence from work can be prevented, especially if it’s linked to stress or musculo-skeletal issues, which are the two main reasons for work related absence from work.  You also get workers  who take the odd day off here and there, well, just because they can. Whether it’s a genuine health issue or fake absence, both instances cause disruption and poor customer service, as well as putting pressure on your other workers who have to step in to cover for the absent person.
Occupational health services are brought in to manage absence because of high absence levels and because many managers are afraid to tackle the issues of personal ill health.
Agree and draft a good absence management policy and set up training for all supervisors dealing with absence.  Absence has to be dealt with effectively and consistently across the company – from the first call in from the worker,  to say they are sick, to the return to work interview and rehabilitation programme.
Add in the policy about accommodating illness before the worker goes off sick; and if there is a culture of poor attendance – start by  telling the workforce that things are going to have to change.  Point out how much money is lost and the stress of trying to cope with unplanned absences.  Then lay down some ground rules about how absence is going to be dealt with from now on.
There is also the new Fitness for Work service which employers, employees and GP’s can access for free occupational health advice.  For more information on this service click here.
The new Fitness for Work service is voluntary – you cannot force a worker to attend the service.  Remember too that people who are genuinely sick must stay at home when required and not struggle in to work where they become a liability if they make mistakes or infect others.
Employers have duties under law[2] to ensure they look after their workers’ health and safety and those affected by the work they do, that is, the public.  You have to consider if workers are fit and able to work.  Some come to work when they should be at home resting or carry on working when they are unfit.  Occupational health services undertake preplacement medicals and return to work medicals after illness, as part of the employers risk assessment process. But companies can do the preliminary work themselves or at least identify those who actually need a full medical assessment with occupational health.
Not all workers need a full medical before starting work and you don’t need to know every single detail of a worker’s past history in order to screen workers. One way to save time and money, is to send out a pre-screening  questionnaire that is linked to the job requirements.  This will not ask intrusive medical questions, but a general set of questions, which indicates if a full questionnaire and occupational health assessment is required.  By having a pre-screening assessment you will cut down the number of fitness for work assessments, cutting costs and speeding up the process.
The fitness for work test must be specific for each job role and linked to health and safety requirements, as well as assessing capability.
Medical information is classified as sensitive under the Data Protection Act and workers are unlikely to declare health issues to non-medical personnel – nor do they need to under law (unless there is a serious health and safety risk)
The Equality Act 2010 protects certain aspects of workers,  such as age, gender and health, making it illegal to discriminate in specific circumstances.  For more guidance on this click here
Occupational health services undertake many non-medical and administrative  tasks during a contract with a business.  Here are some examples:
Setting up appointments
Typing reports
Writing to GP’s/Specialists
Distributing and reviewing questionnaires
Display screen equipment set up
Drug and alcohol testing
Eyesight testing
Tier 1 and 2 hand arm vibration screening
Skin inspections
Wellbeing programmes
Night worker assessments
Training on using personal protective equipment
First aid updates and supplies
Investigations of health problems
Asking about work related symptoms, for example, problems with breathing
You don’t need to pay professional occupational health services to do all these tasks – many can be done in house by competent individuals.  By using your own staff you can reduce costs, control what happens in your own company, and enrich current worker’s jobs, if they chose to become a responsible person.
I have trained up many First Aiders to undertake skin inspections or monitor a health issue in the workplace.  It works really well.
By being aware of what is and isn’t medical – the savvy employer can train up their own staff to do the preliminary work and undertake many  of the above tasks.  The important thing with using your own staff is that they understand the workplace and are on hand to deal with issues as they arise.
If there are problems identified by the responsible person there  must be a means of dealing with issues; which usually involves having an occupational health service available for consultations and advice.
Occupational health services must be competent.  The government backs a scheme of accreditation for occupational health services called the Safe Effective Quality Occupational Health Services (SEQOHS).
For a list of all accredited occupational health services click here
By reducing health hazards, cutting down on administration time and training up your own staff as responsible people, all businesses can greatly reduce their occupational health bill, but, more importantly, begin to understand their own health issues and find effective ways of protecting their own workers.
[1] Use an industrial hygienist for scientific measurement of health hazards.
[2] Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Real time air quality
Take a look at this interesting site showing real time air quality in South Africa.
Real time air quality
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Dust hazards at work

Dust is everywhere!  You dust your home or office one day and the next you see that thin layer of dust glinting in the sun again!  It’s irritating but also poses more serious hazards.
Dust hazards at work
Source –
“How Dust Hazards In The Workplace Can Kill Your Future
Dust is one of those things that is hard to get away from. We create dust in nearly everything we do. Many types of work create dust, and most people encounter dusty environments at work from time to time. Dust may not hurt you today, but it can kill your future.
Dust is one of those things that is hard to get away from. We create dust in nearly everything we do. Many types of work create dust, particularly within the construction and mining industries, but most people encounter dusty environments at work from time to time.
Fine, dry powder consisting of tiny particles of earth or waste matter lying on the ground or on surfaces or carried in the air.
There are two types of dust:
Nuisance Dust
Nuisance dust is just that, a nuisance. In large quantities, it can make breathing difficult, and cause irritation to the nose and throat. It can also get in the eyes and cause visibility issues.
Generally, this type of dust makes work uncomfortable, and less safe due to its presence.
Nuisance dust is still a hazard that should be controlled. Exposure to any dust in excessive amounts can create breathing problems. A dusty workplace may also create slip hazards, clog up buttons, or block up ventilation, filters or other safety measures.
Hazardous Dust
Hazardous dust is a dust type that, if inhaled, can cause damage to health, above and beyond irritation.
Certain dust, such as flour dust and some wood dust, for example, are known to cause occupational asthma.
Other hazardous dust can cause fatal and debilitating illnesses when inhaled, such as cancer, including asbestos dust and silica dust.
Here are some examples of hazardous dust that can be fatal:
Asbestos Fibres
Silica Dust
Wood Dust
Recent research by the HSE estimates that silica dust is responsible for the deaths of 500 construction workers each year. Asbestos is an even bigger killer, an estimated 5000 people die each year in the UK as a result of past asbestos exposure. Workers exposed to wood dust are four times more likely to develop asthma, and it can also cause cancer.
While none of these types of dust will kill you immediately, exposure today could kill you in the future. Some lung diseases, for example, asbestosis or silicosis take years and even decades to develop.
If you work in a dusty atmosphere, it is important to take adequate precautions to prevent dust exposure causing you health problems. You need to protect yourself, and your future.
Controlling Dust
Ideally, the dust should be eliminated altogether, and this may be possible by doing the job a different way, or by using different equipment or materials. For example, could you order materials in the right size, ready to use? This can eliminate cutting on site.
Using power tools to cut, grind and drill creates high levels of dust. If materials are cut to size in a controlled manufacturing environment, with specialist extraction and dust control, it can eliminate dust in your workplace.
It is not always possible to eliminate dust, and so if it cannot be eliminated it should be controlled.
Dust should be controlled at the source as much as possible. It is harder to control dust once it becomes airborne. Clouds of dust can quickly spread filling the entire workplace and entering nearby areas. Control measures such as extract ventilation, tenting the dust source to contain it, or damping down the material can be implemented to prevent dust exposure and spread.
Once you have tried to control the dust at the source, any remaining dust exposure should be assessed. If you are still likely to be exposed to dust, PPE should be provided for protection.
The type of PPE required will depend on the exposure type. A facepiece or dust mask may be sufficient, or a full face respirator may be necessary.
It is important to remember that dust does not just affect the respiratory systems, and depending on the type of dust you may also need to protect your eyes and skin from irritation.
Depending on the type of dust and hazards involved, you may need to take extra precautions. For example, with asbestos work, it is vital that you prevent asbestos dust and fibres spreading to other areas. Enclosures, specialist cleaning, and full body overalls are required. Contaminated items will need to be cleaned or disposed of appropriately.
Cleaning up can create a risk of repeat exposure. Once the dust has settled on surfaces, dry sweeping can disturb and lift the dust back into the air. Consider vacuuming or wet brushing instead, to prevent further dust clouds.”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Fine road dust contamination

Source –
To read full report follow link above
Fine road dust contamination
“The road dust found in mining areas is composed of dust from multiple sources, including wind transported mineral dust from mines and tailings as well as uncovered trucks leakage. Collectively, these are then distributed via wind and traffic activity, becoming an important source of particulate matter (PM) and subsequently inhaled by pedestrians. A common practice in previous road dust risk assessments has regarded them as soil, which likely led to a significant underestimation of the actual inhaled amount. To more accurately understand the inhalation risk presented by road dust in mining areas, the study applied a detailed pollution analysis and dust dispersion model to assess the inhaled amount of road dust. Road dust samples located at different distances to the mine and tailings were collected and sieved to 10?µm (RD10). Enrichment factors (EFs) of Ce, As, Cd, and Mo exceeded 20 across most sampled sites, suggesting extreme pollution. Source analysis indicated that most of the collected RD10 had greater
than half of its mass originating from the mine. To assess the risk presented by inhalation exposure to local populations, we built a method using Gaussian diffusion model and two exposure scenarios for both adults and children were considered. The level of simulated particle concentrations was comparable to that described in the literature; the inhalation of potential toxic elements (PTEs) in RD10 led to health risks for both adults and children (adult and child HI?>?1, with adults CR in industrial areas >10-4). Results also indicated that a ten-fold reduction of silt load resulted in a >4-fold decrease in risk. Collectively, the results suggest that fine road dust is a potential hotspot for mineral exposure in populations living around a mine and its tailings; moreover, that effective prevention measures like road cleaning and truck regulation are urgently needed.
Mining operations are one of the most notable anthropogenic activities in terms of the quantity of dust and aerosol emissions, the globally extensive area affected, and the contents of potential toxic elements (PETs) (Csavina et al., 2012). Developing countries face a particular severe set of challenges, where effective management and prevention measures are largely absent, allowing large quantities of dust containing heavy metals (HMs) and radioactive materials to be released into the atmosphere during mining and other related operational processes. As a result, these activities pose a great threat to the population living around mines and even populations that leave farther from such areas—since fine particles have a longer atmospheric half-life and are capable of migrating across large distances away (Ni et al., 2018).
Measurements of road dust can serve as a comprehensive indicator of urban pollution levels, and a host of studies have focused on such urban road dust pollution, particularly in large metropolitan areas. The PTEs and organic matters were found to be derived primarily from urban traffic and demolition activities (Amato et al., 2009). However, scarce work has examined the pollution levels and health risks of road dust in mine-polluted areas. Our previous work found that in the surrounding areas of Bayan Obo, coarse road dust (diameters =100?µm and 100–2000?µm) contained more REEs and HMs than local PM10; moreover, that REE and HM concentrations increased with decreasing diameter (Tian et al., 2018; Wang et al., 2014a). The high concentrations may indicate the influence of a variety of polluting pathways in addition to atmospheric transmission directly from the mine pit—for instance, leakage from ore transportation.
There are reasons to believe that the fine road dust around mining areas presents a higher pollution level and, thus, an even greater pollution challenge. More specifically, this type of road dust not only consists of more pollutants from different sources, but also likely serves as a notable source of pollutants itself. The important role played by road dust with smaller grain size in diffuse urban pollution has been highlighted by past work (Zhao et al., 2010), and the resuspension of fine road dust likely considerably contributes to PM10 as one of the biggest parts of non-exhaust, traffic-derived emissions (Wang et al., 2014b). Amato et al. (2014) summarized PM sources apportionment studies conducted in European countries and found that 12–90% of atmospheric particulates originated from non-exhaust sources or road dust. To this end, many vehicle emission inventory models account for exhaust emissions, while ignoring non-exhaust emissions, which is especially true for road dust resuspension (Thouron et al., 2018).
The particulates inhaled during an individual’s commute comprises a major part of the total particulates inhaled, and thus, different combinations of residential locations and travel modes may cause distinct exposure amounts of air pollutants (de Nazelle et al., 2012; Karanasiou et al., 2014). Recently, concerns have developed related to the influence of the non-uniformity of pollutant distribution on a given road, different commuting vehicles and paths, and overall commuting time on the exposure dose and its attendant health risk on individual level (Fajardo and Rojas, 2012; Soulhac et al., 2009; Tiwary et al., 2011). Despite this, the inhalation risks presented by the various non-exhaust emissions—especially road dust contaminated by specific sources— remain understudied. Of the work that has been done, particulates dominated by minerals with larger sizes when relative to diesel exhaust particles also induced hazardous effects (Baron et al., 2002; Puledda et al., 1999). Thus, better assessment of the health risks posed by resuspended road dust especially in mining areas is urgently needed. When considering the mobility and inhalation risk, particle size is a key factor. In addition to the longer suspension time, RD10 is also assumed to have the potential to directly interact with PM10, which is thought to be the ‘inhalable’ size that can enter the respiratory tract, resulting in toxicological complications (Jin et al., 2016).
Up until this point, a common practice in health risk assessments regarding the amount of road dust inhalation was to categorize it as soil using a particulate emission factor (PEF) (Ma et al., 2017). However, this approach runs a high risk of underestimating the amount inhaled since it neglects the intense disturbance of traffic. Instead, Zhao et al. (2016) estimated the spatial variations of pollutants contributed by road dust to atmospheric particulate matter considering size-specific mobility. However, wind erosion but not traffic was considered; moreover, the resuspension was not quantified. Similarly, Amato et al. (2009) also assessed the resuspension amount of RD10 and the incident metals emissions (µg/m2) in an urban environment. However, they failed to estimate the concentration, leaving the inhalation risk unknown. On the other hand, comprehensive and mature models have been developed in the field of air pollution simulation including NORTRIP and AERMOD. While valuable, these approaches require numerous topographical, climatic, and traffic parameters, and have large computational costs. These constraints limit their applications for the quick assessment of road dust emissions. With this in mind, it would be beneficial to apply a simple Gaussian diffusion model to obtain a relatively accurate estimate without the need for such cumbersome modeling.”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Chronic Respiratory Diseases

Building on our previous article regarding the health hazard that mine dumps pose on communities, here is a portion of a journal article regarding chronic respiratory diseases that are caused by poor air quality.
Chronic Respiratory Diseases
Source –
“Chronic respiratory diseases are among the leading causes of death worldwide . A recent review indicated that developing countries are experiencing an increase in the prevalence of respiratory diseases and projected trends of severity and frequency are likely to pose a public health challenge. Studies have shown that both indoor and outdoor air pollution are the main risk factors for the burden of respiratory diseases and elderly people are mostly affected as a result of normal and pathological ageing. A higher burden of respiratory diseases among the elderly could be of concern to South Africa’s rapidly increasing population aged 60 years and above, currently the second largest in sub-Saharan Africa.
In developing countries where health risks of air pollution may be underappreciated and effective air pollution abatement techniques are lacking, people are continually exposed to concentrations that can have negative health effects in both the short and long term. Various risk factors have been associated with chronic respiratory diseases, including gender, socio-economic status, tobacco smoking habits, occupational environment and polluting fuel used for residential cooking/heating. Studies conducted in South Africa on the prevalence of respiratory diseases have been in industrialized urban areas.
Mine dump facilities are the main source of airborne particulate matter pollution, the dust is blown into the surrounding communities and can potentially have adverse health effects on human health and ecology. Communities located close to mine dumps are of lower socio-economic status, often children and the elderly. These communities consist of historically disenfranchised ethnic groups living in government-funded houses, informal settlements and retired homes . Epidemiological studies have shown that residing near mines is a major risk for exposure to particulate matter and metals such as cadmium, lead, silica, manganese, lead and arsenic. Exposure to mine dump dust that is that is rich in silica has been linked to the development of chronic bronchitis, emphysema and airflow obstruction. Settle-able dust has a negative effect on visibility, when it forms dust plumes while its deposition on fabrics, buildings, vehicles and water tanks constitutes a nuisance. The ongoing reclamation of mine dumps for gold recovery observed during the survey, is worsening dust pollution with further deterioration of ambient air quality in the study populations. Many epidemiological studies have linked the effects of ambient air pollution with respiratory diseases. Elderly people are potentially highly vulnerable to the effect of ambient air pollution, due to normal and pathological aging.
No studies have investigated whether exposure to mine dust or living in close proximity to mine dumps poses an increased risk for respiratory diseases among elderly people or possible effect modifications between various air pollution sources, including mine dust.
This study is part of the bigger project initiated by Mine Health Safety Council of South Africa (MHSC) around communities located near mine dumps in Gauteng and North West provinces. It is, to the best of our knowledge, the first study that has investigated the association between potential risk factors and chronic respiratory diseases among elderly people staying in communities situated near mine dumps in South Africa. The aim of the study was to investigate whether the prevalence of chronic respiratory symptoms and diseases among the elderly community were associated with proximity to mine dumps. Effect modification between proximity to mine dumps and other air pollution sources was also investigated, for instance the type of fuel use for residential cooking/heating, tobacco smoking and history of occupational exposure to dust or chemical fumes.”
To read the study click the link above.
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Mine dumps and community health

We all know that the dust from mining has adverse health effects.  How do mind dumps effect the health of communities living near them?  The Conversation gives us some information on that.
 Mine dumps and community health
Source –
“How mine dumps in South Africa affect the health of communities living nearby
May 2, 2018
Mining is a major economic activity in many developing countries. In South Africa, mining of gold, coal and other natural resources has played a significant role in the country’s economy, with both positive and negative consequences.
Mining companies are often criticised for dumping waste without taking the necessary precautions. The result is a significant amount of air, soil and water pollution.
One particular area of concern is mine dumps which are made up of crushed, sand-like by-product refuse material, known as tailings, produced during the mining process. Mine dumps are made up of a complex mixture of metals and dust particles. This means that dust exposure can be high for communities living nearby, particularly during windy conditions and when it’s dry and vegetation cover is low.
An estimated 1.6 million people live in informal and formal settlements on – or directly next to – mine dumps in South Africa. People living in these settings tend to be historically marginalised and, in the main, poor.
We set out to study the effect of air pollution on these communities. These are the first studies to look at the impact of dust particles from mine dumps on the health of children and elderly people.
We also considered other risk factors such as smoking habits, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, age, sex, population group, occupational exposure history to dust and chemical fumes, main residential heating and cooking fuel type and the frequency of trucks passing near the residences.
Even after building in all these variables, we were able to find a definite association between higher levels of asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, wheeze and chronic cough among young and elderly people living close to mine dumps.
This is a major cause for concern particularly given that communities living near mine dumps are growing, and because respiratory diseases like asthma are becoming more prevalent. These two factors mean that South Africa’s health service faces increased strain. This should prompt the government to legislate dust control measures to protect communities.
What we found
Asthma is a disease of the bronchial tubes in the lungs “airways”. People with asthma typical experience “wheezing”: a high-pitched whistling sound heard during breathing, especially when breathing out.
Globally, asthma and its symptoms tend to be more common among children and older people. In most high-prevalence countries, such as Australia, Europe and South Africa factors responsible for increasing asthma rates are not fully understood, although environmental and lifestyle changes have been found to play the key role.
Our studies were conducted in two sets of communities. One set lived between one and two kilometres from mines meaning that they were exposed to the mine dust. The other lived five or kilometres from the mine dumps, meaning they were not exposed. There were five pre-selected five mine dumps in Gauteng and North West provinces of South Africa. The mine dumps were included in the study based on their size and the high population density around them. The social and demographic profiles of the exposed and unexposed communities was similar.
The studies were divided into three phases that included the cross-sectional studies, panel studies, personal and indoor air monitoring. The studies were conducted among 13 to 14-year-old children and people 55 years and older.
Our research showed that exposure to mine dust or living close to a mine is a risk factor for asthma. This may be attributed to the fact that inhaled dust particles can potentially harm the respiratory system.
We found that children living in communities close to mine dumps were more inclined to show symptoms of asthma like having a wheezing chest along with a runny nose, congested nasal passages and post nasal drip (rhinoconjunctivitis). There was a higher prevalence of asthma symptoms such as current wheeze and rhinoconjunctivitis in children living near to mine dumps (21.1% and 32.9%) compared with other studies conducted in cities like Cape Town (20.3% and 20.7%) and Polokwane (18.0% and 16.9%).
The prevalence of asthma among the children in communities located near mine dumps – between 10% and 13% – was consistent with other studies conducted in South Africa.
And among older people, we found the rate of asthma to be 17.3%. This was significantly higher than similar studies done in the US where the rate was found to be between 4% and 10% and Australia (7.5% to 12.5%). There aren’t any comparable studies for other developing countries.
Changing the status quo
New long term effective dust control measures should be researched and implemented. This is because asthma is becoming a burden across the world and because communities living near the base of mine dumps is growing. This means that there’s the real potential that asthma will be added to the burden of non-communicable diseases in South Africa.
The mining industry has in the past, implemented various strategies to reduce pollution from mine dumps. This has included spraying mine dumps with water and rehabilitating areas by planting grass, which effectively catches the dust. But these strategies have often been ineffective because the grass withers during the dry season and sprayed water is rapidly absorbed or evaporates.
One possible intervention could be to put buffer zones in place between mining dumps and where people come to settle. This would be a start to what needs to be concerted government efforts to address the problem.”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Dust Storm in Aggeneys

In January of 2021 a major dust storm occurred in Aggeneys, South Africa.  Wondering where Aggeneys is??  It is a small town just outside of Pofadder in the Northern Cape Province.  It was established on a farm in 1976 as a mining town.