Hazards of Welding Fumes

According to Business Insider, the average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. That is a significant amount of time for anyone, but it is especially important to those whose job involves exposure to certain health risks.

Welders face a number of real and dangerous risks that could significantly impact their current and future quality of life. Welding fumes, for example, is one of the biggest risks to a welder’s health. That risk is heightened by a welder’s ongoing exposure to fumes. Here is what you need to know:

What are welding fumes?

Welding fumes are a combination of metal fume and gas byproducts. They are formed when a metal is heated above its boiling point and its vapors condense into fine particles. These particles then stay suspended in the vapor of gas.

Some of the metals found in welding fumes include aluminum, arsenic, copper, lead, manganese and zinc. Gases such as argon, helium, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide are also found in fumes.

How does a welder become exposed to welding fumes?

A welder inhales welding fumes through the air that we breathe. His or her exposure would depend on:

  • The type of welding process being done
  • The location of the welding (i.e. in an enclosed space or outside)
  • The movement of the air
  • The use of fume extraction solutions

What are some of the health risks associated with welding fumes?

Some gases, in small quantities, like carbon dioxide and argon can be eliminated from the body without lasting effects; however, others such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide are very toxic.

Inhaling welding fumes can result in short to long-term symptoms.

In the short term, a welder could experience symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting. Metal fume fever is a common short-term effect that develops following overexposure to zinc fume. Symptoms begin to appear after a few hours of exposure and may last up to 48 hours. Treatment for metal fume fever focuses on relieving symptoms through oral hydration, rest and anti-inflammatory medications.

Prolonged exposure to welding fumes could lead a welder to develop more serious conditions including chronic lung problems, larynx cancer, urinary tract cancer, ulcers and kidney damage. Manganism syndrome, which is a result of exposure to manganese, has symptoms that are similar to Parkinson’s disease.

What can be done to minimize the effects of welding fumes?

Fume extraction is the best way to mitigate a welder’s exposure to welding fumes. A fume extractor works by extracting and filtering air that has been polluted.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require employers to provide their employees with safe and healthy workplaces. Employers can do their part to protect welders by reviewing their current practices and implementing the appropriate fume extraction solutions.

Remove the Fume is a one-stop, online platform that offers a range of fume extraction solutions. If fume extraction is a priority for your business, Remove the Fume has the solution to best address your needs.

Although we will spend a number of years in the workforce, our working lives eventually come to an end. Do what you can now to enter that next chapter of your life in good health. If you are concerned about the degree of welding fumes in your workplace, contact OSHA.