By Benjamin Howell of Kemper America
Welding emission reduction is something that interests all metal fabricators, and today’s welding technology does a good job of removing welding smoke that can contribute to health risks. This can be misleading, however.
At the nanolevel, invisible to the human eye, the concentration of particulate matter can pose a great risk to welders. Studies show that welding fume particles are mostly smaller than 0.1 micrometer, which makes nearly all welding fume particles respirable. They can penetrate deep into the alveolate region of the lungs during inhalation and remain firmly fixed there.
Welders exposed to welding fumes on an ongoing basis run a significant risk of health-related problems. The most common symptoms include fatigue, breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, bronchial diseases, manganese poisonings, lead and cadmium oxides, episodes of metalworkers’ fever when welding galvanized materials, and even damage to the central nervous system. The harmful particulate matter generated during welding of nickel, chromium, and cadmium compounds can be considered carcinogenic.
Additional health risks are associated with filler materials. Ninety-five percent of harmful substances that make up welding particulate originate from the filler metal, and only the remaining 5 percent comes from the parent metal.
What safety measures should be employed to protect metal processing workers from such risks?