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.
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.
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.