The process of welding produces smoke that contains harmful metal fume and gas by-products. The fume contains different concentrations of hazardous particulate substances.
Welding Fume Substances
Examples of substances contained in welding fume can be grouped into metals and gases.
Metals include aluminum, antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silver, tin, titanium, vanadium, zinc.
Gases include argon, helium, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, phosgene, hydrogen fluoride.
Among them, hexavalent chromium, manganese, nickel and lead are capable of causing serious health problems for welders.
Dangerous Particle Size
The size of particles generated from welding fume are normally between 0.01 and 0.1μm. These are very small particles that can stay in the air for a long period of time.
This makes them particularly very dangerous as they can penetrate the inner parts of the respiratory system. Continuous exposure may even lead to a compromised bloodstream.
The Health Risks Of Welding Fume Exposure
Below are a list of health risks as a result of inhaling welding fume as commonly reported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) :
- Intense exposure to welding fume and gases can result in eye, nose and throat irritation, dizziness and nausea.
- Prolonged exposure to welding fume may result in lung damage and other types of cancer, including lung, larynx and urinary tract.
- Health effects from certain fumes may also result in metal fume fever, stomach ulcers, kidney damage and nervous system damage. Prolonged exposure to manganese fume can cause Parkinson’s–like symptoms.
- Gases such as helium, argon, and carbon dioxide displace oxygen in the air and can lead to suffocation, particularly when welding in confined or enclosed spaces. Carbon monoxide gas can form, posing a serious asphyxiation hazard.
It is advised that workers who experience symptoms of dizziness, fever and nausea after exposure to welding fume and gases should leave immediately and seek medical attention. While this may be good advice, it is only a reactionary approach to dealing with a problem that requires a proactive measure to mitigate against it.
A Preventative Measure Against The Effects Of Welding Fume
The use of a welding fume extraction system provides a preventative, long term measure against welding fumes. Welding fume extraction systems extract smoke and fume particles at source, to ensure optimal extraction efficiency and to prevent the welding fumes from entering the workspace.
Envirox has a wide range of welding fume extraction solutions. From fixed installed extraction arms with extraction fan and dust collector system to mobile units and on-torch extraction solution.
Our FilterMax F welding fume dust collector provides complete integrated filter solution for the whole workshop and it's perfectly suited for applications involving smoke and coarse particles.
Alternatively, our FMC welding fume dust collector is developed for continuous operation in industrial process filtration and duct collection applications. This ensures cleaner air and a healthier environment for workers.
Additionally, the Nederman extraction arms are cost-effective and efficient options for extracting fumes and dust directly at its point of generation. They are suitable for most applications and industries, even corrosive and explosive industries.
The FilterCart is a mobile filter unit for light to medium welding and extraction applications. FilterCart includes an extraction arm with an option of an integrated LED spotlight, which aids visibility. FilterCart is also easy to maneuver.
The Filterbox, on the other hand, is a flexible and modular portable filter for welding fume and dust extraction. Filterbox is effective at dealing with welding fumes and non-combustible dust. Nederman extraction arms and other accessories are attached to work as a mobile unit or as a fixed mounted unit.
On-torch extraction, on the other hand, captures the fumes directly at its point of generation. The extraction is done through openings in the nozzle at the tip of the torch. The fumes are carried through hoses into the collector. The torch must be connected to a high vacuum system in order to properly extract and treat the fumes.
The on-torch unit, which may either be portable or central, supplies vacuum to the torch. It then collects and filters the fumes, returning clean air to the workshop.