How to Prevent Welder’s Lung?

How to prevent pulmonary siderosis or welder's lung

A welder’s lung, sometimes called “siderosis,” is a type of lung disease caused by fumes and dust particles at a certain workplace. A welder’s lung is often obtained because of the filthy environment that contains a large quantity of dust or fumes inside the working environment.

Exposure to welded fumes may lead to some common problems for welders and those workers who are deployed in shipyard welding, automobile industry, heavy-duty equipment manufacturing, construction, and railroad track. In addition, welding fumes are generally categorized as carcinogenic for humans.

The Hazards of Welding Fumes

Welding fumes and some irritating gases like ozone and oxides of nitrogen may cause metal fume fever, irritation, or any type of lung disease. Abrasive blasting can produce a large quantity of dust which includes metal oxides. This may also contain RCS or the so-called Respirable Crystalline Silica. Every situation may be different from the other. The risk of it always depends on the procedures, surface contaminants, road & flux, the metal, and the location where the tasks are done.

In general, welding fumes may provide negative long-term effects on the health of individuals. These may also result in chronic lung disease and may increase the risks of cancer and occupational asthma. In addition, dust and fumes from allied procedures may cause some other lung-related problems that are worse.

If you’re exposed to Respirable Crystalline Silica, then your health may be at risk since you may develop silicosis. This kind of disease makes it difficult for you to breathe. Thus, it may also increase your risk of lung infections. It typically follows numerous years of being exposed to RCS. But exceptionally high exposure over a few years or months may also result in acute silicosis. Furthermore, this may also cause death from the months of being exposed to hazardous chemicals, gases p, or fumes. On the other hand, prolonged or heavy exposure to silica under several conditions which produce silicosis may cause cancer in your lungs.

If worse comes to worst, there’s a possibility that you may develop COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease that prevents you from breathing properly. COPD is a technical term that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

How to Control Welding Fumes and Prevent Welder’s Lung?

Since welding fumes and other dust particles in a certain workplace are hazardous to humans, it is essential to take precautionary measures within the working environment. But how can you control welding fumes or dust particles inside your workplace?

The best way to keep fumes and dust particles to a minimum is by using equipment called a welding fume extractor when doing your tasks in the welding industry. This equipment can help get rid of the contaminants like paints, gases, or chemicals in the air and make your working environment clean. Through working in a healthy and safe working environment, you can have a guarantee that you will not experience a welder’s lung or siderosis.

Aside from using that equipment, the following are some suggested measures or precautionary procedures that you need to do when working in the welding industry or construction:

  • Use some Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when working — You must have a complete PPE when doing some welding works in the company. In addition, of course, a facemask is one of the protective garments that you need to use since it can protect you from inhaling dust particles, chemicals, or fumes in your workplace.
  • Protect your organs, especially the lungs, by having adequate ventilation — When you are working indoors, it is important to open the windows and doors to freely enter and leave the air in your surroundings. But even with proper ventilation in your working area, it is still necessary to use a respirator when working. You should utilize an appropriate cartridge in the respirator that can filter the dust and fumes in your area.
  • Always watch your health conditions — As much as possible, don’t keep yourself from too much exposure to hazardous areas with a high quantity of fumes. But since your occupation is prone to these chemicals and fumes, you always need to watch your health status. Visit your doctor regularly and let him check your health status. This is one of the ways on how to determine the early symptoms of possible lung concerns. In this way, you can have assurance that you will be given extra care while working in your workplace.

Never risk yourself getting into work without any protection. Always use a specific type of equipment like welded fume extractor that can extract or remove dust and fumes within your workplace. A proper caution at work is necessary for you to make sure that you will not experience siderosis or welder’s lung. The company or the industry should ensure health protocols as compliance with rules and regulations related to the health concerns of the workers. Besides, it is also their responsibility to provide a safe and healthy working environment to all their employees.

What is Welder’s Lung?

Explanation of Welder's Lung

Welder’s lung, sometimes referred to as silver polisher’s lung or siderosis, is a type of lung disease which was caused by inhaling some iron particles, either through fumes or dust. This kind of ailment is in the form of pneumoconiosis, a term utilized to refer to lung diseases due to dust particles inhalation.

Some types of pneumoconiosis may include black lung and silicosis. Black lung is caused by the inhalation of particles from the coal mine, while silicosis is due to the inhalation of silica particles. Sometimes, a welder’s lung is a type of interstitial disease of the lungs, which is the result of inhaling irritants that settle onto the lungs. The irritants that go directly into the lungs may lead to lung scarring and inflammation. Then, this causes the organs to become hardened and stiffened, which results to breathing difficulties.

Since a welder’s lung or siderosis is the result of inhalation of iron particles which are typically produced at a specific workplace, it is then considered an occupational type of disease. Some occupations that increase an individual’s risk of developing this ailment include metal polishing, mining, steelmaking, soldering, welding, steel/iron rolling, and metal sheet working.

If you’re working on any of these occupations or you are oftentimes exposed to fumes or iron dust, then you must be cautious enough so that you will not experience a welder’s lung or the so-called “siderosis.”

The following are the best ways and procedures that you should do to avoid this ailment, especially if you’re always exposed to fumes or iron dust particles:

ü First, wear some protective garments like a face mask while you’re working on your task.

ü Second, make sure that the place where you’re working should be properly ventilated.

ü Finally, visit your physician for a regular check-up so that your doctor may detect if there are some early symptoms of lung disease or damage.

Unlike some other types of lung diseases, welder’s lung rarely causes signs or symptoms. Because of this, it’s sometimes referred to as a benign type of pneumoconiosis. However, the welder’s lung may lead to some other conditions which produce its own symptoms.

Aside from those tips and suggested measures for you to avoid this kind of disease, it is also advisable to use a welding fume extractor. This kind of fume extractor eliminates contaminants and efficiently circulates air to avoid health concerns.

Welding fumes are generally hazardous to the health of an individual once they are inhaled. Even with the small quantity of dust particles that get into your lungs, it can inflict further harm or damage to your body organs. If welded fumes are not properly extracted, these may cause all types of health diseases such as dizziness, nausea, lung cancer, kidney damage, nose/throat/eye irritation, and damages to a person’s nervous system.

Using a Welding Fume Extractor to Avoid Inhalation of Dust Particles

According to the experts, it has approximately 18,000 cases of lung-related concerns occur every year. And this is because of a poor extraction of welded fumes at the workplace. But worry no more because you can make use of the fume extraction equipment in your workplace. This can help you to extract the dust particles and perform your jobs without problems.

If you think that your workplace is quite hazardous because of these fumes or dust particles, be much better to utilize a kind of extractor for welded fumes. By using this equipment, you can have the following benefits and advantages:

  • Healthy environment when working — If you’re working in an environment where there is a high risk of fumes like soldering, paint, or chemicals, it is crucial to use fume extraction equipment to eliminate these contaminants.
  • Ensure compliance — In some places, rules and regulations are strictly followed. And as far as policies are concerned, the state informed all the businesses to adhere to compliance in terms of health protocols. One of these policies pertaining to health is removing the welded fumes and dust particles from their source. So, when you use a piece of extraction equipment to get rid of these fumes, you tend to comply with the country’s rules and regulations.
  • More energetic and active workforce — Fume extractor at workplace contributes to a safe and healthy working setting. One of the things that promote an energetic and well-motivated workforce is by removing welded fumes and giving the employees a clean and well-circulated flow of air indoors. With an efficient extractor, workers will never be prone to any illness while working in the company. Aside from that, they will become more productive, resulting to a good performance level.

So, by using some protective garments plus utilizing extraction equipment for the fumes and dust particles, you can have a guarantee that any type of lung disease such as welder’s lung or siderosis will never be experienced by the workers in your company.

Are MIG Welding Fumes Harmful?

MIG welding hazards

MIG welding is indeed a very renowned type of welding. Also, it can be an extremely safe type of welding when safety precautions are followed. This type of welding makes a lot of heat and a lot of light as well. There are many tips that you can follow in order to make MIG welding safer.

You can use leathers and gloves to keep you safe from the burn.  This will also keep you safe from any molten metal, which might splatter off the workpiece. For this kind of welding, you can use all types of gloves which you feel comfortable with. In addition, leathers will assist you in protecting from the light and heat of the process. However, how can you protect yourself from MIG welding fumes? Are these MIG welding fumes harmful? Keep on reading for further information.

MIG Welding: Extremely Risky in Spite of Low Amount of Fumes

MIG Welding produces fewer amounts of fumes; however, in spite of fewer fumes, they are very risky and harmful to the health of the welders. Unlike other active metal welding methods such as MAG Welding, metal inert gas or MIG welding has fewer gas emissions; however, it causes high-risk damaging substances. Particularly, exposure to gas needs efficient work safety.

Metal Inert Gas welding is regarded as a very fast and productive method of welding. Therefore, it is largely utilized when non-iron metal is processed, for example, for apparatus, plant as well as aircraft manufacturing. Compared to MAG welding, metal inert gas welding doesn’t utilize active gases, however unchangeable inert gases. Largely argon, however, in individual conditions, also the costly helium help in keeping the welding safe from oxidation because of the external oxygen influence from the air.

On the other hand, this is precisely the main reason for the welders’ well-being risk. This kind of welding is also regarded as arc welding- in which arc is vital to keep high productivity. This makes sure high temps and burns the wire are curved on a spool. In turn, this is utilized on the right hand as the live electrode and the left hand as auxiliary material. Ninety-five percent of the damaging substances made during welding are normally due to the auxiliary material.

MIG Welding Fumes are Carcinogenic

MIG welding, compared to other methods, causes a low amount of welding fumes. On the other hand, the threats can be found if you look carefully at the details. Welding aluminum emits welding fumes like aluminum oxide. This is a very risky substance that can damage your lungs and can cause dust deposits in your respiratory tract and your lungs in general. You can be sick with a permanent aluminosis that in other countries is, after all, a qualified sickness liable to reparation. It is less the time of exposure than the amount that causes the sickness. Respiratory tract irritation might occur too.

Also, it is vital to think about the threat of zone once welding aluminum alloy. Gas formation is due to the arc, along with a low amount of welding fumes. Ultraviolet rays are hampered in the spread since less welding fume is generated. What is more, they are reflected by black surfaces of aluminum as well as stainless steel, two of the most popular processed materials. More dust promotes a greater perish of this unbalanced gas into oxygen. Once you inhale it, it can result in mucous membrane irritation, pulmonary oedema, and acute irritant gas poisoning. More ozone is produced during metal inert gas welding than WIG welding. In fact, it is about ten times.

Nickel Alloy: A Higher Risky Material

The highest risk factor of an auxiliary material is there when welding nickel alloy. If these come with a high level of nickel, welding fumes account for 87 percent of nickel oxide or more. According to the research, this substance is very risky and harmful, and considered carcinogenic.

If a nickel-base alloy has copper, then assume that higher amounts of welding fumes are made compared to working with combinations that contain cobalt, chrome, or molybdenum. Copper oxide turns out to be the major component and is classified as poisonous and might cause metal fever.

As a whole, in spite of low amounts of fumes generated in MIG welding, all occurring risky substances still show high-risk factors- in the same manner as welding fume does.

How to Combat Dangerous MIG Welding Fumes

It is very important for welders out there to put into practice relevant ventilation measures since an alteration to procedures utilizing less toxic substances isn’t possible for metal inert gas welding. Workplace improvement doesn’t offer the needed relief from these hazardous substances. If you are a welder, you must prefer direct extraction within the generation region. It is also advisable to use a welding fumes extractor. This is a very effective tool to keep safe from risky welding fumes. There are many to choose from; all you need to do is to do research.

Can Welding Fumes Make You Sick?

Can welding fumes make you sick?

Are you a welder and want to know if welding fumes can make you sick or causes various medical issues? The IARC or International Agency for Research on Cancer re-classification of welding fumes from welding as a Class One carcinogen has emphasized the health risks a welder encounter on the job. Before, it was categorized as “possibly carcinogen to humans,” welders must take each precaution possible to keep their well-being safe and sound, even if the threat isn’t visible.

What are Welding Fumes?

Welding fume is a complex mix of metallic oxides, fluorides, and silicates. A fume is created once a metal is heated higher than its boiling point. Its vapors condense into fine particles or solid particulates. In general, a welding fume has particles from the electrode as well as the material being welded.

The precise welding fume composition differs based on the welding technique and application being utilized. However, the two major components of welding fumes are:

Metal dust particles due to welding are fine and very concentrated; they look like smoke, making a high threat of inhalation. The metal dust particles are made of many toxic metals like antimony, aluminum, beryllium, arsenic, cobalt, iron, molybdenum, manganese, silver, tine, nickel, zinc, titanium, and vanadium.

The mixture of metals generates many toxic gases. These take account of carbon, argon, helium, carbon monoxide, iron oxide, hydrogen fluoride, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, phosgene, and nitrogen.

Why are Welding Fumes Risky to Health?

Welding fumes can lead to serious medical problems for welders if inhaled. Short-term exposure can lead to dizziness, nausea, nose and throat, and eye irritation. Prolonged inhalation of welding fumes can result in lung cancer, urinary tract cancer, larynx cancer, and kidney and nervous system damage. In addition, specific gases like carbon dioxide, helium, and argon displace oxygen and pose suffocation risks, especially in an enclosed work setting.

Welding fumes can also damage your brain. This can also result in anemia, lead poisoning, metal fume fever, Parkinson’s disease, and asthma. A lot of welding fumes can have a growing effect on well-being without signs or symptoms.

How to Avoid Sick Due to Welding Fumes

Welding fume is a complex blend of toxic fumes as well as noxious gases. This can make you sick. In fact, some observed illnesses resulting from too much exposure to fumes were mentioned above. However, it is vital to notice that these fumes are a complex blend of metal oxides and metals and too much exposure is unique.

A lot of queries remain unanswered about the effects of welding fumes on human well-being. It has been recommended that new welding fume risks tend to be presented into the place of work because of the development of growing sophisticated welding systems, which might change the properties of the newly formed fumes. Keeping away from these fumes is the main and important step to minimize the risks. Based on the advice given by the ACGIH or American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, the AWS or American Welding Society, ANSI or the American National Standards Institute, and the OSHA or Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the following techniques are advised to lessen the risks of exposure to fumes.

  • Thoroughly comprehend the risks related to welding
  • Clean welding areas to eliminate coatings that can lead to toxic exposure levels
  • Keep upwind of fumes when welding in outdoor or open areas. However, be aware that working outside does not assure safe ventilation.
  • Utilize an exhaust ventilation system when welding indoors. Make sure to keep away exhaust ports from other welders.
  • Avoid welding in a restricted or enclosed area that does not have proper ventilation.
  • Use respiratory protection when ventilation and work practices do not reduce fume exposure to safe levels.
  • If possible, eliminate paint or any coatings from the metal before welding. This will keep away the production of toxic gases, which might be generated under the fusion of paint and coatings.
  • It is also advisable to utilize a welding fume extractor to keep away fumes to keep you safe and sound and avoid possible diseases due to gases and fumes.

Conclusion

Every welder knows that they should take precautions were sparks, fires, explosions, and possible eye damage. They know they need to wear the best clothing and take care to maintain the tools properly. Each welder knows that they need to ensure valves are on cylinders properly and hose aren’t leaking. Yet, a lot of welders forget the unseen risk of welding fumes.

A lot of welding safety tips or advice doesn’t include fumes. They always talk about proper attire and avoiding explosions, yet welding fumes are taken for granted always. It doesn’t matter if you work for yourself or a company; you should limit the exposure to fumes when possible. Special equipment, good ventilation as well as shielding are all vital. Following basic welding safety tips will help you keep away from fumes, which can lead to sickness and various kinds of diseases.

Is Welding Fume a Carcinogen?

When a metal is heated above the boiling point, fumes are formed. They are a mixture of fluorides, metallic oxides, silicates, and other harmful contaminants. 

With countless studies, welding fumes are considered carcinogenic. In the 1970s, they were believed to be safe as the health hazard was still unknown. The research was also limited. 

Years had passed, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that exposure to welding fume could cause cancer

Types of Cancer You Can Get After Prolonged Exposure to Welding Fumes

Welding fumes are carcinogenic. But what types of cancer people may have when exposed to these contaminants, though? Here are some of them: 

Lung Cancer

Tobacco use, family history, and previous radiation therapy are the common risk factors for lung cancer. 

Exposure to welding fumes is another prevalent factor. Scientists who examined data from approximately 45 published studies found that people who work as welders are 43% more likely to have lung cancer. 

When researchers assessed the data from studies for asbestos and smoking exposure, welding was still linked to around 17% risk of lung cancer. 

Epidemiological evidence also points to an increased lung cancer risk, especially welding professionals that handle stainless steel. Wedding fumes from stainless steel contain high chromium VI and nickel content, according to experts

In the early stages, there are no signs. But when the condition progresses, patients may experience a frequent cough, chest infections, painful breathing, persistent breathlessness, loss of appetite, lack of energy, and drastic weight loss. 

The symptoms still vary from person to person. 

Larynx Cancer 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), welding fumes can lead to cancer in the larynx. 

Drinking excessive alcohol content and smoking tobacco products are the top causes of laryngeal cancer. 

Research also finds welding fumes responsible. 

Symptoms are cough, sore throat, painful ears, a lump in the throat, and hoarseness. 

To diagnose laryngeal cancer, different procedures and tests are employed. Usually, physicians conduct a physical exam of the neck and throat. But it is not as effective as biopsy, CT scan, barium swallow, bone scan, PET (positron emission tomography) scan, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). 

Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiosensitizers, and radiation therapy. 

Damage Urinary Tract and Kidney

OSHA also notes that an extended period of exposure to welding fumes can damage the urinary tract and kidneys. 

Approximately 37 million adults in the US live with a kidney problem, but they do not know about it. 

Signs of kidney damage are extreme fatigue, trouble sleeping, dry skin, frequent urination, blood in the urine, persistent puffiness, swollen ankles, poor appetite, and frequent cramps. 

What Are the Risks? 

Several factors increase your risks to welding fumes. These can be your welding technique, metal treatments, surface coatings, contaminants in the air, length of welding time, power settings, and ventilation. 

Certain contaminants like nickel, beryllium, chromium, and cadmium oxides will also put your life in danger. 

Beryllium, for example, is a known carcinogen. Cadmium oxides are only suspected, while some forms of chromium are proven to cause cancers. 

Importance of Wearing PPE

One protective gear welders do wear is a PPE as hazards can range from UV radiation, broken toes, burns, cuts to shocks. 

The best way for welding professionals to stay safe is to use protection from head to toe, according to the American Welding Society and OSHA. 

What Are the Other Safety Gear to Wear During Welding Sessions

There are different materials welders use. To prevent any serious eye injuries, helmets and safety glasses are recommended. 

What type of helmets and safety glasses should you invest in? When choosing a helmet, it should have enough lens shade number as it plays a significant role in preventing eye damage from UV radiation. 

For the safety goggles, they must be compliant with the ANSI Standard Z87. While it is enticing to invest in something cheaper, always purchase brands that offer excellent value. 

What else? For full-body protection, it is vital to have boots, gloves, and welding jackets. 

For jackets, leather is expert-recommended as it provides protection on a different level. But it is too uncomfortable to wear. 

Alternatively, you can try cotton jackets. But make sure it is fire-resistant and durable. 

Boots, on the other hand, should be compliant with the ASTM F 2413. Generally, they are made of various materials. The leather boots with steel toes and rubber soles will be your best bet. 

For gloves, there are also options to opt for. While the vast selection can be an advantage, it is confusing to deal with. You can never go wrong with leather, metal mesh, or canvas gloves. 

Are You Working as a Welder? 

Working as a welder is a career you should be proud of, but during welding sessions, your health and safety should be your number one priority. Wear every possible PPE for your peace of mind! Plus, do not forget to use a welding fume extractor. 

Can Welding Fumes Cause Cancer?

There are hundreds of thousands of welders in the US. The employment market is also projected to grow up to 5.6% in 2026, according to experts. 

Currently, welding as a profession has a high demand. Various sectors, including structural metals, mining machinery, motor vehicle, and industrial machinery, are looking for certified and qualified welders. 

So, pursuing a welding career is a smart idea skilled professionals can ever have. 

But like other careers, welding has potential risks you should know. 

When welding any metal, it creates fumes. Studies show this smoke can cause cancer when inhaled. 

Cadmium oxides are the popular welding fume that can contribute to the development of certain types of cancer. They are stainless steel alloys packed with cadmium, zinc alloy, and plated materials. Each of these components can increase the carcinogens in the air. 

Nickel is another metal to look out for as experts believe it poses cancer and other health risks. Despite that, it is widely used in the industry because it is rust-resistant, 100% recyclable, durable, and hygienic at the same time. 

Beryllium is another metal you should be wary of. It is usually found while welding copper, aluminum alloys, and magnesium. It is also carcinogenic. Still, it is utilized in multiple sectors due to its high thermal/electrical conductivity, hardness, resistance to rust, and strength. 

Chromium is likewise found cancerous. It is often utilized as a plating material as it is brittle and has a reliable melting point. What’s more, it provides incredible resistance to various types of corrosion. 

Welding Fumes are Characterized as Group 1 Carcinogen

With a lot of welding fume cancer-related incidents in the US, it has been a subject of different studies. 

In 1989, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorized welding fumes as potentially carcinogenic. 

But during that time, the studies were limited to prove such a claim. 

But from then on, researchers conducted intensive studies. The SYNERGY project is one of the most important studies in 2013. 

Medical experts found that full-time welders have a greater risk of lung cancer than those who wielded occasionally. 

Other Health Dangers of Welding Fumes

Aside from cancer, welding fumes have other health risks. Below are some of them: 

Weak Lung Function

Medical experts study the difference between the lung functions of a welding professional and a regular individual. 

They found that the former struggle in breathing due to a tight chest they develop after prolonged exposure to carcinogenic fumes. 

They exert great effort to breathe well. Health professionals believe the effects might get worse over time. 

Then, the lung function is reduced. When left untreated for months, a person might experience occupational asthma. Symptoms are frequent coughs, tight chest, and breathing troubles. 

Severe Throat and Lung Infection

Serious infection in the throat and lungs is the first symptom of developing cancer.

When exposed to welding fumes, patients suffer from recurring dry throat. 

This triggers a tight chest that may cause non-stop coughing. That’s why most patients use inhalers for breathing comfortably. 

These symptoms are mistaken as signs of fatigue. After some time, patients may be diagnosed with pulmonary edema. It is an infection where the lungs accumulate fluid. 

Consult your physician as early as possible if you feel some of these changes in your body. 

Suffocation

Throat infections cause breathing difficulties. Suffocation is the best example. Recent studies also imply that fumes are rich in carbon monoxide that pose an asphyxiation hazard. 

Poor Immunity 

Our immunity will not get weak after a single welding session. The effects do not happen overnight. We would feel something wrong with our bodies after a long time. Our immunity will be the first one to suffer. We will be more vulnerable to cold and fever. Serious symptoms are stomach ulcers and kidney damage. 

Safe Welding Tips to Follow and Keep in Mind 

Employers are accountable for providing, ensure, and maintain a safe working environment for their skilled workers. 

But as an employee, it is critical to follow health and safety precautions. Here are some safe welding tips you should bear in mind: 

Use a Welding Fume Extraction at All Times

Before, the exposure to welding fumes was high. Things have changed today. With the advancement of technology, companies invest in cutting-edge fume extraction. Since its launch in the market, it has gained immense popularity. It can ensure a healthy working environment and compliance. 

Get Rid of Solvents and Paints from Surfaces

These may contribute to other harmful contaminants in the air, so it is better to remove them before any welding session. 

Wear Protective Gear

While there typically is a welding fume extractor on the construction site, it is not enough. Make sure to wear respiratory protection. The company usually provides safety gear, so there is nothing to worry about. 

Streamline Welding Activities

Automating welding, however, may require additional costs. If organizations/businesses do not have enough budget for modern welding technology, the traditional method is useful. 

How to Treat Welding Fume Inhalation

During welding operations, toxic metal fumes called welding fumes are produced. Depending on the used metals for welding, these metal fumes come with varying compositions. For such reason, they contain a number of contaminants that can cause serious health problems.

When someone is exposed to welding fume, they may not stop inhaling those hazardous metal substances. Remember that welding metal fumes contain aluminum, zinc oxides, vanadium, nickel, lead, copper, etc. that cause different health problems.

If you have been exposed to these fumes and suspect that you inhaled them, this post will help you get more familiar with welding fume inhalation and how to treat it.

Why Is Welding Fume Inhalation Dangerous?

Unfortunately, some people are not aware of the dangers that welding fume brings. Inhalation of these fumes causes serious diseases, lung complications, and damage to the brain and nervous system.

Below are the common complications caused by welding fume inhalation:

  • Asthma
  • Eye, nose, throat, sinus, and lung irritation
  • Metal fume fever
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Anemia
  • Lead poisoning
  • Kidney failure
  • Emphysema
  • Various cancers

If individuals breathe in welding metal fumes over the years, their health will suffer seriously. Here are the short-term health effects of inhaling metal fumes:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pneumonitis (lung inflammation)
  • Edema (fluid in the lungs)
  • Bronchitis
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Eye, nose, and chest irritation

Below are the long-term health effects of welding fume inhalation:

  • Heart disease
  • Infertility
  • Kidney damage
  • Gastritis
  • Hearing loss
  • Skin diseases
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Urinary tract cancer
  • Larynx cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic lung problems (siderosis, silicosis, emphysema, asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, etc.)

Each metal fume may cause specific health problems, including:

  • Cadmium – this toxic fume causes cancer and kidney problems
  • Manganese – this hazardous metal fume causes Parkinson’s Disease, attacking the muscles and nerves
  • Chromium – this meta fume cause breathing difficulties

Metal Fume Inhalation May Lead to Metal Fume Fever 

Metal fume fever is one of the most common complications of exposure to metal fumes.

Exposure and inhalation of fumes containing hazardous metals generated by welding results in a clinical syndrome development called metal fume fever. This condition usually occurs as an occupational disease in people performing welding and metal-joining jobs.

In most cases, metal fume fever presents non-specific complaints such as malaise, headache, myalgia, arthralgias, shaking chills, fever, and influenza-like symptoms. This condition is generally self-limited and benign; severe cases are also reported.

Metal Fume Inhalation Diagnosis and Treatment 

Diagnosis of metal fume inhalation is easy to miss since the complaints are not specific, and the condition resembles common illnesses. For instance, complications like metal fume fever might be confused with pneumonia or acute bronchitis.

The diagnosis is primarily according to the metal oxide fumes exposure history. Physical symptoms often vary among individuals exposed. Some individuals may present with crackles in the lungs or wheezing. Affected persons may have increased blood cell count and skin zinc, blood plasma, and urine levels.

People with a recurrent metal fume fever history may develop a tolerance to metal fumes. However, this tolerance is transient. The metal fume fever and other complications due to inhalation also only persist through the workweek. This means after a weekend hiatus, metal fume tolerance generally disappears.

With regard to the treatment, affected individuals may have bed rest in case of mild symptoms. The patients should stay hydrated and may undergo symptomatic therapy like taking aspirin for headaches. Anti-inflammatory medications are also recommended.

How to Prevent Welding Metal Fume Inhalation 

Inhalation of toxic metal fumes should not be taken for granted as it can affect someone’s health negatively. They may not notice it at first, but the symptoms become obvious later on. Before things get worse, ensure to take action to prevent the complication of welding metal fume inhalation.

  • Select welding fumes that help reduce the welding fume production;
  • Remove paint and coating from the metal before welding, if possible;
  • Isolate the welding processes from the workers to reduce exposure;
  • Use ventilation such as local capture devices, mechanical ventilation, and natural ventilation to reduce the fume concentrations in the breathing zone;
  • Workers must position their face far away from the fumes;
  • Workers must not stand where the airflow pushes the metal fumes away from the working area;
  • Workers must be introduced to different policies like running regular health checks so that they are not overexposed to the metal fumes;
  • Use of respiratory protection is necessary to reduce metal fume inhalation;

Conclusion 

Welding fumes are a mixture of toxic gases and fumes, and they cause serious health problems when inhaled. If you are a welder, it is critical to understand the dangers of the materials you are working with. As much as possible, you have to keep yourself away from metal fumes and wear the proper protective gear and keep the working surfaces cleat at all times. Plus, welding fume extraction will also help.

What is Welding Fume Exposure?

Exposure to welding fumes

In welding, two materials are joined together by melting a metal workpiece and a filler. As a result, a strong joint is formed. However, the welding process causes visible smoke production that contains hazardous gas by-products and metal fumes. Anyone who experiences welding fume exposure may be at risk of different health issues.

In this post, you will get more familiar with what welding fume exposure is all about.

Welding Fume Exposure Overview 

As the name suggests, welding fume exposure is a type of exposure to very small particles formed when a vaporized metal condenses in the air. These metal fumes are often too small to be seen by the naked eye. However, they form a visible plume.

Exposure to welding fume is associated with different health effects depending on the particular metals present in the fumes. These health-associated effects range from short-term conditions like metal fume fever to long-term damage such as neurological disorders.

Health Issues Caused by Welding Health Fume Exposure 

When someone is exposed to welding fumes, they are also exposed to a variety of metals, such as manganese, lead, beryllium, arsenic, and aluminum. Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, argon, and hydrogen fluoride gases are also produced during the welding process.

Welding fume exposure causes serious health problems if inhaled. Below are the different fume types and consequences once anyone is exposed to them:

Aluminum

Welding fumes contain aluminum components such as fillers, brass, magnesium, steel, zinc, and copper. It can cause respiratory irritation when inhaled.

Beryllium 

This fume refers to a hardening agent found in electrical contacts, aluminum alloys, magnesium, and copper. It may cause metal fume fever and other long-term effects, including lung damage.

Cadmium Oxides 

These fumes are zinc alloys and stainless steel containing coated materials and cadmium. Shortness of breath, chest pain, dry throat, and respiratory irritation are some of the health effects. Chronic effects include emphysema and renal failure.

Chromium

Chromium is mostly high-alloy materials and stainless steel. It is also used as a coating material. The health risks of exposure to it include an increased risk of lung cancer, and some people may develop skin irritation.

Copper 

Copper alloys contain bronze, monel, and brass that are commonly found in some welding rods. Chronic effects include metal fume fever, nausea, and eyes, nose, and throat irritation.

Fluorides 

Fluoride is a flux material and an electrode coating for low- and high-alloy steel sheets. Eye, nose, and throat irritation are the severe effects, while chronic exposures may lead to joint and bone problems. Some individuals may also experience other chronic effects, such as fluid retention in the lungs.

Iron Oxides 

These metal fumes are the primary contaminants in all steel or iron welding processes. They can cause Siderosis; a lung disease resulted from deposited carcinogens in the lungs. Nose and respiratory irritation are some of the severe symptoms. Meanwhile, these symptoms stop when metal fume exposure stops.

Lead

This fume contains brass, solder, and bronze alloys. It causes long-term health effects on the digestive system, kidneys, mental capacity, and nervous system. Some individuals may experience lead poisoning.

Manganese 

In most cases, manganese is used welding process, particularly the high-tensile steels. It leads to metal fume fever. Long-term health effects include issues with the central nervous system.

Molybdenum 

This fume contains nickel alloys, stainless steel, iron, and steel alloys. Severe health effects include shortness of breath and eye, nose, and throat irritation.

Nickel

Nickel is an alloy of some Hastelloy, Monel, Inconel, and stainless steel. It is also found in coated steel, welding rods, and high-alloys. Eye, nose, and throat irritation and increased risk of cancer are some of the severe effects. It is also associated with respiratory problems and dermatitis.

Vanadium 

This fume type is an alloy of nickel, stainless steel, iron, and some steel. It causes eyes, skin, and respiratory tract irritation. Chronic effects include pneumonia, retinitis, and bronchitis.

Zinc

Zinc refers to the painted galvanized metal and causes metal fume fever.

How to Reduce Welding Fume Exposure 

The amount of each fume type someone inhales depends on several factors, including local ventilation, area ventilation, welding position, and welding amperage. Don’t worry; there are several ways how to minimize the exposure to welding fume aside from using a welding fume extractor, including:

  • Regular cleaning of welding surfaces;
  • For indoor welding, use a local exhaust ventilation system;
  • Always wear respiratory protection gear;
  • Do not weld in a space with no ventilation.

Conclusion 

Welding fume exposure is hazardous to someone’s health, especially those who perform welding processes for long hours. Prolonged exposure to hazardous welding fumes causes lung damage and different types of cancers, such as urinary tract, larynx, and lung. Plus, the severity of the negative health effects depends on several factors.

That is why if you are vulnerable to welding fume exposure, ensure to follow several ways to minimize the exposure. As much as possible, stay away from hazardous substances in welding fumes.

What Is Welding Fume?

Welder dealing with fumes

Welding fume is a complex mixture of silicates, metallic oxides, and fluorides. It contains particles from the material and electrode being welded. It is a fact that welding is among the common industrial processes today. Unfortunately, it can produce welding fumes that are harmful to your health. Welding fumes can contain different metals like arsenic, aluminum, beryllium, manganese, and lead.


Different welding fumes composition 

Welding fumes are formed if the metal was heated above its boiling point. Its composition can have metal oxides based on the material being welded. Some of the welding fumes compositions include the following:

  • Nickel alloys can have more nickel fume and few iron
  • Fluxes with fluoride or silica can create metallic silicates, amorphous silica, and fluoride fumes
  • Stainless steels come with more amount of nickel or chromium in the fume and fewer amount of iron.
  • Mild steel welding fumes consist of mostly iron with few amounts of additive metals, including nickel, chromium, molybdenum, manganese, titanium, vanadium, copper, cobalt, and more.

 

Coatings can affect the welding fumes composition 

You should take note that coatings of the metal can also affect the composition of welding fumes. The ingredients in the coatings of these materials may have toxic effects. Some of these ingredients are:

  • Lead oxide primer paints
  • Oils, metalworking fluids, and rust inhibitors
  • Cadmium plating
  • Zinc on galvanized steel
  • Solvents and paints vapors
  • Plastic coatings

 

Potential health risks of welding fume 

Keep in mind that welding fumes can cause various health issues if inhaled. Short-term exposure to welding fumes can cause nose, eyes, throat irritation, dizziness, and nausea. On the other hand, prolonged welding fume exposure can cause larynx, urinary tract, and lung cancer. It can also cause kidney and nervous system damage. In addition, welding fumes like carbon dioxide, helium, and argon can pose suffocation risks.

 

Tips to reduce welding fume exposure 

The following are some tips to minimize exposure to welding fumes.

  • Understand the risks related to welding
  • Regular cleaning of welding surfaces to eliminate coatings that can lead to toxic exposure levels
  • You can also use an exhaust ventilation system designed for indoor welding
  • Avoid welding in a confined area without ventilation
  • Wearing respiratory protection if ventilation is not enough to reduce the exposure to welding fumes

 

Removing coatings to reduce welding fume exposure 

Removing the coatings in the weld area can help to reduce the fume. It can also enhance the weld quality. You can use stripping products while eliminating the coatings. It is also essential to remove the residues before the welding procedure. Make sure not to grind coatings since grinding dust can be toxic. You can use the wet vacuum removal technique to remove the toxic coatings.

 

What are the factors for welding fume exposure? 

The following are some factors for welding fume exposure:

  • Movement of air
  • Welding process
  • Welding rod composition
  • Ventilation controls
  • Location ( enclosed and outside spaces)
  • Used filler and base metals

 

Toxicity of welding fume 

  • The toxicity of welding fumes means being chronic or acute. The toxicity can include more than one metal. The toxic effects can be additive.

 

Chronic fume toxicity 

  • The symptoms begin to appear a long time after the first exposure
  • The fume exposure can be more long periods like years and months

 

Acute fume toxicity 

  • It can happen if the exposure to high concentrations of fume particles in a short time
  • Symptoms can appear right after the welding fume exposure

 

Why is welding fume dangerous? 

Welding fume is hazardous. Thus, like what we mentioned earlier, it can cause serious lung conditions and diseases. It can also damage the nervous system and brain. It can also increase the risk of kidney failure, emphysema, anemia, metal fume fever, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, throat, nose, and lung irritation.

 

If you want to avoid the risks posed by welding fume exposure, you can practice the following tips:

 

Protection against welding fumes 

 

One of the best ways to reduce welding fume exposure is using a welding fume extractor. In this system, a fan uses a negative draft to pull dust particles and fumes into a contained filtration system. It can help to protect the environment, machinery, and people during the welding process.

 

By practicing safety precautions to reduce welding fume exposure, you can also protect the processes and equipment. It can also help to enhance the workplace environment. In addition, it can protect the health of welders and workers in the area.

 

Another solution to reduce welding fume exposure is using exhaust ventilation. It uses a fan that can move the air horizontally across the face of the welder. It can be a helpful tool, especially when welding in confined spaces.

 

Conclusion 

 

To sum it up, welding fumes are dangerous to your health. It can cause several short-term and long-term health issues that may cost your money or even life. With this, you can apply the tips above to protect yourself from harmful welding fumes.

Which Welding Fume Chemical Is Odorless and Tasteless?

Which welding fume chemical is odorless and tasteless?

Welding fumes are small particles formed if vaporized metal quickly condenses in the air. Usually, they are not seen by your naked eye, but they can create a collective visible plume. Welding fumes can have negative effects on your health. These may include short-term metal fume fever or long-term neurological disorders, or lung damage. Welding fumes can also lead to harmful conditions like siderosis or chronic lung inflammation, welding tract irritation, and an increased risk of lung cancer.

Welding fumes consist of different metals like arsenic, aluminum, beryllium, manganese, and lead. Carbon dioxide, nitrogen, argon, hydrogen fluoride, and carbon monoxide gases are produced during the welding process. These welding fumes can pose a health risk if inhaled.

 

Examples of Welding Fume Chemicals That Are Odorless and Tasteless:

 

Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide is among the fumes chemical produced during welding. This welding fume chemical is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. In addition, it can’t be readily detected by the senses. Overexposure to carbon monoxide can lead to symptoms including a dull headache, pounding heart, dizziness, flashes before eyes, nausea, and ringing in the ears. Overexposure to carbon monoxide can inhibit the red blood cells on the body from carrying oxygen to other tissues that lead to asphyxiation.

 

Argon 

Another welding fume chemical that is odorless and tasteless is argon. It is a colorless gas used in electric lamps, arc welding, ionization chambers, and metal refining. Contact with this fume chemical can burn and irritate your eyes and skin. High levels of argon can reduce the oxygen amount in the air that can lead to suffocation with various symptoms. These symptoms include dizziness, rapid breathing, headache, lightheadedness, and loss of judgment and coordination. Higher levels of argon can also cause vomiting, nausea, unconsciousness, coma, and even death.

 

Carbon Dioxide 

Carbon dioxide is another odorless and tasteless welding fume used in carbon steel MIG welding, flux core welding, and plasma shielding. It can be mixed with argon as a shielding gas on the welding of stainless steel and carbon. It can produce deep, narrow penetration with a stiff arc that works best in position welding.

 

Helium

Helium is a tasteless and odorless, non-toxic gas used for GTAW on nonferrous materials. It is used to avoid oxidation on welding metals like stainless steel, aluminum, magnesium alloys, magnesium, and copper. It minimizes the formation of welding ozone on welding aluminum alloys. It helps with weld pool travel speed and fluidity.

 

Welding Fume Risks 

Welding fumes pose risks to your health. Inhaling welding fumes can lead to lung diseases and complications. It can also cause nervous system and brain damage. Exposure to welding fumes can also lead to kidney failure, anemia, lead poisoning, and more. With this, it is essential to learn how to reduce the risk of inhaling welding fumes.

One way to reduce welding fumes inhalation is to use a welding fume extractor. It is a system that has a fan that uses a negative draft for pulling dust particles and fumes into a contained filtration system. It is beneficial in eliminating dangerous particles in the air during welding processes. With this extraction, machinery, people, and the environment can be protected from hazardous welding fumes.

 

The Following are Some Ways on How Welders Can Protect Themselves From Welding Fume Chemicals:

 

  • Wearing respirator with nice filtration

 

  • Place your face as far as possible from the fumes

 

  • Don’t stand in before airflow pushing fumes away from the workspace

 

  • Use available ventilation systems

 

  • Remove paint or any coatings from the metal before the welding process to avoid producing toxic gases from those coatings

 

Efficient and Safe Welding Procedure 

Aside from protecting the workers, the welder is also protected from harmful fumes. Control of welding fumes exposure is possible through ventilation and extraction. With these solutions, you can capture the welding fumes to reduce their potential risks.

How Extraction Units Work 

The extraction system works as it was installed and switched on. It can suck up the fumes through the filtration procedure. So, it can release clean air into the environment. The extraction unit comes with filters that use a sensor that warns you when they need to be replaced.

Conclusion

Generally, welding fume chemicals are harmful to human health. It can lead to various illnesses like what we mentioned above. Increased exposure and inhalation of welding fumes can cause severe diseases and even death. That’s why you need to practice the tips we mentioned earlier to reduce the risk of welding fumes. Extraction units can be your efficient solution to prevent harmful welding fumes in the air.

Meanwhile, welding fumes come in various types. Some are tasteless and odorless, like carbon monoxide, argon, helium, carbon dioxide, and more. Despite being tasteless and odorless, these welding fumes still pose a risk to your health. With this, you need to be responsible for limiting your exposure to these welding fumes.