Illnesses caused by welding fumes

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently released a safety alert on welding fumes after new research highlighted that even exposure to mild steel welding fumes can lead to cancer.  Such evidence has made it essential for businesses to invest in a reliable welding fume extractor – like the ones we supply at Defuma – to ensure fumes are safely removed.

Here we look at the number of health problems associated with regularly breathing in welded fumes and further outline why effective welding fume extraction is so important.MaxiFil Clean Welding Smoke Filter Unit in action

Some welders will be more susceptible to illness than others – depending on their immune system and the amount of welding fumes they breathe in. Weld fumes can cause short term health problems and permanent conditions, like asthma.

Potential illnesses include:

  • Cancer

Studies from Workplace Health Expert Committee (an independent body that provides expert scientific and medical opinions relating to health in the workplace), show that welded fumes are carcinogens – meaning they can cause lung cancer, and sometimes kidney cancer.

  • Pneumonia

Working in welding environments, staff are prone to lung infections which in time can result in severe or fatal pneumonia. According to HSE, 40-50 welders are hospitalised each year as a result of breathing in welding fumes – and pneumonia kills approximately 2 of these each year.

  • Asthma

Welders are at greater risk of getting asthma than other workers. Stainless steel welding fumes that contain chromium and nickel are asthmagens and can cause occupational asthma. The best way to prevent it is to always use the appropriate respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and to regularly check that it’s working correctly.

  • Metal fume fever

Many welders complain about flu-like symptoms, be it:

  • chest soreness
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • tiredness
  • vomiting
  • weakness

These symptoms can signal the start of metal fume fever which fortunately doesn’t have a lasting effect on health and can be treated with hydration, rest and anti-inflammatory medication.

  • Throat and lung irritation

The gases and finer particles found in welded fumes can cause a dry throat, tickly cough or tight chest. When TIG welding steel or aluminium, welders are exposed to high levels of nitrous oxides and ozone which are generated in most arc welding operations. Extreme exposure can cause fluid on the lungs (pulmonary oedema).

Why welding fume extraction is important

Businesses have a responsibility to make sure that there are suitable controls in place in welding environments to protect workers – and a welding fume extractor is a fantastic way to monitor these weld fumes.

We supply a wide range of welding fume extraction units, including the HZ750-2 – a high vacuum Haz-dust unit. Designed to cope with almost every situation, it guarantees the best solution for handling hazardous dusts and weld fumes.

If you’d like to know more about how welding fume extraction can benefit your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at Defuma. We are always on hand to help, and will happily guide and advise you in making the right choice to ensure you select the most suitable extractor for your working environment. Call 01480 455 466 or email enquiries@defuma.co.uk to find out more.

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