Health Effects of Welding Fumes

Published on November 6th, 2017 by Andrew L. Hughes

Both short and long-term exposures to welding fumes can cause a variety of symptoms and illnesses. Short term, or acute exposures can lead to symptoms such as throat dryness, coughing and chest tightness. Acute exposures can also cause “metal fume fever,” an illness with symptoms comparable to the flu. Long term exposures can lead to reduced lung capacity, kidney failure, stomach ulcers and various cancers, including nasal, laryngeal, pancreatic, bladder and kidney cancers. Understanding the havoc that these fumes can wreak on your body and understanding ways to minimize or prevent exposure can help keep you safe from lasting damage.

Content of Fumes + Health Effects

The surface being welded combined with the welding process and welding rod composition generally determines the exposures to the welders and other workers in the shop. For instance, welders in railroad shops in years past would often make welds on stainless steel railroad cars that were painted with lead paint. In that instance, the shop workers and welders would be exposed to fumes containing lead, chromium, nickel, cadmium, and manganese. Chronic exposures to those substances can cause central nervous system disorders, kidney damage, and cancers of the lung, larynx and urinary tract. Medical testing on manual metal arc stainless steel welders found elevated levels of chromium and nickel in their blood. Determining the content of the particular welding fumes and the resulting illness can be a complicated analysis. Diesel Injury Law works with top experts, including industrial hygienists, toxicologists and occupational medicine doctors who study the exposures and the illness.

Preventing Exposure

There are several steps you can take to limit or even prevent your exposure to harmful welding fumes. Always follow all safety protocols that your employer may have, and be sure to utilize the proper personal protective equipment each time you’re on a job site where welding fumes may be present. Double check to make sure that local exhaust ventilations systems are working properly. Make sure to clean the surface being welded to ensure that you are not exposed to solvent residue or paint fumes. Do not attempt to weld near degreasing baths or on surfaces which are still wet with degreasing solvent. Avoid using chlorinated hydrocarbon degreasers and welding in confined spaces.

Your Rights

Despite these prevention tactics, career welders and those who work in environments where welding is common still suffer illnesses from occupational welding fume exposures. Employers who fail to provide their employees with the proper protections against these fumes via proper PPE, safe facilities, and safety training should be held accountable for the harm their employees experience. If you believe you or a loved one has been injured by occupational welding fume exposures, call Diesel Injury Law today! Our experienced team will fight for the justice you deserve.

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