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:
- Eye, nose, throat, sinus, and lung irritation
- Metal fume fever
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Lead poisoning
- Kidney failure
- 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:
- Loss of appetite
- Pneumonitis (lung inflammation)
- Edema (fluid in the lungs)
- Shortness of breath
- Eye, nose, and chest irritation
Below are the long-term health effects of welding fume inhalation:
- Heart disease
- Kidney damage
- 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;
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.