Known Health Effects from Welding Fume Exposures
There are a number of known health effects that can occur from welding exposures:
In early 2017, welding fume was reclassified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans) to Group 1 (Carcinogenic to humans). This change was primarily associated with the effects of UV exposure on the skin and eyes, for lung cancers and limited evidence for kidney cancer from welding fume exposures (read our white paper on what this reclassification means for Aussie welders).
Long term significant exposure to welding fume can cause lung damage and various types of cancer, including lung, larynx and urinary tract. Chromium (VI), a specific chemical form of chromium can be created during welding of many stainless steels and non-ferrous alloys and is highly toxic and can cause cancer. Certain fumes (zinc is one) may induce metal fume fever, stomach ulcers, kidney damage and nervous system damage. Prolonged exposure to manganese fume can cause Parkinson’s–like symptoms.
Welders are particularly prone to a lung infection which can lead to severe and sometimes fatal pneumonia. Modern antibiotics usually stops the infection however in severe cases you could end up in hospital.
Asthma is a common complaint for welders, with components of stainless steel fume containing chromium oxide (CrO3) and Nickel Oxide which cause asthma. For this reason, stainless steel welding fume is considered more harmful than mild steel fume.
Short term exposures to significant levels of welding fume and gases can result in eye, nose and throat irritation, dizziness and nausea. Ozone is a particular cause of this when TIG welding stainless steels and aluminium. Find out more about Welding fume in our White Paper and be sure to view our range of Welding Respirators (PAPR)