We often talk about welding fume being a hazard to welders and worksites, however we often don't look at exactly why it is.
A recent paper from WorkSafe in Victoria has some great insights to answer exactly why welding fume is dangerous.
Firstly Welding Fume is now internationally recognized as a carcinogen to humans. This has obvious consequences in terms of Cancer. However the health effects spread far wider than just this. Below is an excerpt from the WorkSafe paper about these health effects.
Exposure to welding fumes is known to cause short and long-term health effects.
The short-term health effects may include:
- irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes
- respiratory irritation
- metal fume fever (zinc oxide)
The long-term effects may include:
- lung and kidney cancer
- effects on the nervous system
- pre-disposition to pneumonia
The risk to a welders' health depends on the composition of the welding fume and their level of exposure. This is determined by:
- the composition and concentration of the welding fumes generated by the type of welding process used (see previous section)
- the duration and frequency of exposure (the arc time or the actual time spent welding)
- welders' posture and head position relative to the welding fume
- location of the welding process, for example: indoors, outdoors, restricted or confined spaces
- the type of controls in place to prevent or reduce exposure to fumes, and their effectiveness