The cobalt mining company at Modum in Norway had its own health service. The doctors kept records of all patient contacts. Recently discovered material from the 1822-32 period shows that gastrointestinal diseases, injuries and respiratory diseases made up the majority of patient contacts, in addition to unspecified infections.
BACKGROUND: Pollution from industry assumed new dimensions when large-scale industry and mining were established in Norway towards the end of the nineteenth century. The present article discusses how the local health administration responded to the first extensive industrial pollution of air and water. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Two chemical factories producing wood pulp and one abandoned nickel mine are studied by means of information from court records and municipal archives. RESULTS: New forms of large quantity pollutants and their great spreading capacity were not anticipated in the Health Act of 1860. The legislation at the time had ambiguous points which made it difficult to apply in cases of industrial pollution. One major problem was reliable documentation of adverse health effects. INTERPRETATION: Neither central nor local medical authorities had adequate competence to exert the professional influence required. In spite of this, local health commissions acted with considerable authority in the early 1890s. Within a few years, however, the health aspects were down-played because of the strong economic and political interests behind the new industries. The principal difficulties emerging in the 1890s with industrial pollution eventually lasted for nearly one hundred years.
Major Norwegian 19th-century mines had their own company physicians. Some of their reports and the mine sick-lists have been kept. From the Modum Blue Colour Works we have more than 80 such reports or sick-lists (each covering a four-week mining period) from 1823 to 1839. Of a total of 8,798 patients, 67 (0.8%) were diagnosed as suffering from odontalgia. The treatment was extraction or medication. Patients who underwent tooth extraction had fewer subsequent sick-days than those who were only given medication. Other registrated dental or oral disorders included dental abscess, caries, dental cancer with growth on the gums, thrush, dentition, dental fever and scorbutus.
In 2009, the hospital departments of occupational medicine and the National Institute of Occupational Health established a joint, anonymous examination register. The objective was to achieve a better overview of occupational health examinations of patients in Norway, including changes in occupationally related exposure and illness over time.
After the patient consultation the examining doctor completes a form, which is subsequently registered electronically. This article is based on analyses of patient examinations registered in the period 2010?–?2015.
A total of 8 775 patient examinations had been recorded. The majority of those examined were men (75?%) and the most commonly occurring age group was 50?–?69 years (52?%). The most frequent exposures involved irritants/allergens (18?%) and organic solvents (15?%), which were recorded in a slightly increasing and slightly declining frequency respectively through the period. Manufacturing and mining were the top industries (30?%). The most common symptom organs were the lungs/respiratory tract (57?%), with asthma, COPD and lung cancer as the most frequent diagnoses. The proportion of cases that were deemed to be likely or possibly related to work remained stable at 40?% and 23?% respectively. At the time of the examination altogether 16?% of the patients were receiving sickness benefit, 10?% were receiving work assessment allowance and 13?% disability benefit.
Occupationally related illness entails significant consequences for individuals as well as society. The examination register provides a good overview of the patient examinations in the occupational health departments in Norway and may reveal changes in occupationally related exposure over time. In this way, the register may contribute to targeted preventive efforts.
The Kings Bay Coal Company at Spitzbergen was taken over by the Norwegian government in 1933. The rough arctic conditions caused many difficulties. Over the years, the coal mine had already experienced some explosions when the disaster struck in 1962. 21 miners were killed. The disaster was investigated by two governmental commissions. Little by little, more and more attention was paid to the fact that the employer and owner was the government. The final commission accused the employer of violating the working environment and safety regulations. The disaster was debated in the Norwegian parliament in 1963. The Labour Government had to resign on a vote of no confidence. But what was the working environment at Kings Bay like? Were the accusations of violations of regulations substantiated? The direct cause of the disastrous explosion has never been identified.