The results of a meta-analysis (a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies) on exposure to welding fume and risk of lung cancer were published in April 2019. This statistical analysis reviewed over 35 studies conducted from 1954 to 2017 and included over 16 million participants from all around the world.
What were the conclusions of the 2019 study?
- Welders present, on average, a 43% increased risk of lung cancer when compared with those who have never welded or been exposed to welding fume.
- This increased risk of lung cancer is regardless of the type of steel welded, the welding process and independent of exposure to smoking.
- Increased risks persist regardless of time period or occupational setting.
- The risk increases with years of employment as a welder.
2019 Honaryar MK, Lunn RM, Luce D, et al. Occup Environ Med1
As you are likely aware, in 2017 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified welding fume from ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’, as was its position from 1989, to ‘carcinogenic to humans’. The reclassification of welding fume by the IARC was qualitative in nature and was the result of a systematic review of all available literature published on the subject.
The recent Honaryar statistical analysis published in 2019, instead quantifies the risk of lung cancer, and explores exposure and effect associations through a quantitative and statistical approach. The two studies, qualitative and quantitative, taken together send a clear and important message to welders and those who employ welders in Australia and New Zealand. Recognising welding fume as carcinogenic and the increased lung cancer risk faced by welders should encourage the welding industry to introduce or reassess control measures to better protect their workers.
If you are a welder, employ welders or have a vested interest in the safety of welders and you want to learn more about this recent study or you would like further information on this topic, Australian Welding Supplies have just released their 2020 Welding Fume Update Paper – The Current State of Play. The paper takes a closer look at the 2019 study on welding fume and lung cancer, from an Australian and New Zealand perspective and takes a look at what welders and those who employ welders can do in light of this new information.