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 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.
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 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 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.
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.