The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) states that welding, cutting and brazing are hazardous activities that pose a unique combination of both safety and health risks to more than 500,000 workers in a wide variety of industries. The risk from fatal injuries alone is more than four deaths per thousand workers over a working lifetime.
One of the major health risks includes exposures to welding fumes and gases. The welding process produces visible smoke that contains harmful metal fumes and gas by-products. OSHA has developed a fact sheet discussing these hazardous fumes and gases that could be present during welding. The agency lists the following metals that may be a component of welding fumes:
• Chromium & Hexavalent Chromium
Gases in welding fumes may include the following:
• Shielding – Argon, Helium, Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide
• Process – Nitric Oxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Ozone, Phosgene, Hydrogen, Fluoride and Carbon Dioxide
OSHA also lists the following factors that affect worker exposure to welding fumes. They include:
• Type of welding process
• Base metal and filler metals used
• Welding rod composition
• Location (outside, enclosed space)
• Welder work practices
• Air movement
• Use of ventilation controls
• Use of respiratory protection
The health effects of breathing welding fumes, according to OSHA, could include the following:
• Acute exposure to welding fumes and gases can result in eye, nose and throat irritation, dizziness and nausea.
• Prolonged exposure to welding fumes may cause lung damage and various types of cancer, including lung, larynx and urinary tract.
• Health effects from certain fumes may include metal fume fever, stomach ulcers, kidney damage and nervous system damage. Prolonged exposure to manganese fumes can cause Parkinson’s–like symptoms.
• Gases such as helium, argon and carbon dioxide displace oxygen in the air and can lead to suffocation, particularly when welding in confined or enclosed spaces. Carbon monoxide gas can form, posing a serious asphyxiation hazard.
These are just a few things to know about potential exposure concerns to welding fumes. To learn more about this or other occupational, environmental, indoor air quality, health or safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.
Clark Seif Clark http://www.csceng.com
EMSL Analytical, Inc. http://www.emsl.com
LA Testing http://www.latesting.com
Zimmetry Environmental http://www.zimmetry.com
Healthy Indoors Magazine http://www.iaq.net
VOETS - Verification, Operations and Environmental Testing Services http://www.voets.nyc