Air Quality in the Working Environment and Respiratory Health of Female Congolese Stone Quarry Workers

Ngombe Leon-Kabamba, Nlandu Roger Ngatu, Basilua Andre Muzembo, Sakatolo Kakoma, Nzaji Michel-Kabamba, Brigitta Danuser, Oscar Luboya, Tomohiro Hirao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aim. Environmental and occupational exposure to high dust levels are known to be associated with lung function impairment. We assessed the ambient air quality in the working environment and the respiratory health of female stone quarry workers in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a context of severe economic, security, and health crises. Methods. This was a case-control study conducted in three stone quarry sites. Participants were 256 dust-exposed female stone quarry workers matched to 256 unexposed female office workers and market tax collectors (N = 512). They each answered a structured respiratory health questionnaire and underwent physical examination and a lung function test with the use of a spirometer and peak flow meter. Quality of ambient air in the working environment was assessed by means of a BRAMC air quality monitor (BR-AIR-329). Results. Results showed that exposed women did not use any personal protective equipment (PPE); in quarry sites, abnormally high levels of PM2.5 (205 ± 13.2 µg/m3 vs. 31.3 ± 10.3 µg/m3 in control sites; p < 0.001) and volatile organic compounds (VOC, 2.2 ± 0.2 µg/m3 vs. 0.5 ± 0.3 µg/m3, respectively; p < 0.01) were found. Furthermore, respiratory complaints were more common among exposed women (32.4% vs. 3.5% in controls; p < 0.01), who had abnormal chest auscultation and reduced lung capacity than controls (mean PEFR: 344.8 ± 2.26 and 405 ± 67.7 L/s, respectively; p < 0.001 Conclusion. Findings from this study show that in the midst of severe crises in the DRC, women stone quarry workers are exposed to abnormally high levels of respiratory hazards, which contribute to impaired lung function. There is a need to regulate quarry work and improve the working conditions in quarry sites in the DRC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number171
JournalTropical Medicine and Infectious Disease
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Air quality
  • Congo
  • PM
  • Quarry worker
  • Respiratory health
  • Working environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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