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.
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.