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Welding Rod Fumes

Did You Know?

A recent study found 40 percent of welders showed signs of the disorder. Many physicians are unaware of manganese poisoning or the risks of exposures in steel making and welding as stated on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

Welding rods and other materials contain the potentially harmful element, Manganese. When heated, Manganese rods release toxic welding rod fumes. These fumes lead to welding rod fumes disease, a neurological disorder that resembles Parkinson's Disease.

The National Parkinson's Foundation confirms that occupational exposures to Manganese have been linked with clinical parkinsonism. Furthermore, mixed occupational exposures to Manganese and iron combined, a common combination in a welding environment, have been related to elevated PD risk.

Manganese may also be caused by exposure to dust created by welding rods and other items that contain Manganese. Exposure to high levels of airborne manganese, from welding rod fumes or from fumes such as in a Manganese foundry or battery plant, can affect motor skills such as holding one's hand steady, performing fast hand movements, and maintaining balance. Exposure to high levels of the metal may also cause respiratory problems and sexual dysfunction

PRIMARY SYMPTOMS - WELDING ROD FUMES
  Tremors or Shakes     
  Slowed movement
  Decreased hand agility
  Depression
  Difficulty walking
  Distorted facial    expression
  Increased irritability
  Joint pain
  Loss of equilibrium (balance)
  Loss of short term memory  Sinus problems
  Slowed movement
  Slurred speech or slow speech
  Stiffness in arm and leg muscles
  Sudden and/or severe mood changes
  Tremors

Types of Welding Likely to have Used Manganese Rods

The welding methods and welding processes listed below involved the use of welding combustibles and welding filler materials containing manganese.

  1. Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW, stick)
  2. Gas metal arc welding (GMAW, MIG)
  3. Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW, TIG)
  4. Flux colored arc welding (FCAW)
  5. Plasma arc welding (PAC, PAW)
  6. Submerged arc welding (SAW)
  7. Carbon arc welding (CAW)
  8. Electro gas welding (EGW)
  9. Stand welding
  10. Oxyacetylene welding
  11. Beddon plate welding
  12. Torch brazing
  13. Oxygen cutting
  14. Air carbon arc cutting

Welding is usually safe because of the many precautions taken. However, welding equipment used improperly can expose welders to a number of hazards including toxic fumes, dusts, burns, fires, explosions, electric shock, radiation, noise, and heat stress. Any of these hazards can cause injury or death.

Welders are sometimes exposed to temperatures in excess of 10,000 degrees. Welders know it is important that the workplace be made fire safe. Welders also know it is essential that operators and helpers be properly clothed and protected because of the heat, ultra-violet rays, and sparks, produced by the welding equipment. What welders may not have know if that welding may cause Parkinson' Disease.

WELDING ROD FUMES - PROTECTING YOURSELF

All gases, fumes, and vapors that come from metal, paints, fluxes, degreasers, rods during welding are covered by the OSHA hazcom standard. So, your employer must train you about the risks and show you material safety data sheets (MSDSs) about any of the chemicals, if you ask. Also:

  1. OSHA says you must remove all paint and solvents before welding or torch cutting. Make sure all residues are removed.
  2. Use the safest welding method for the job. Stick welding makes much less fume than flux core welding.
  3. Use welding rods that produce a low fume. 90% of the fume can come from the rod. Welding guns that extract fumes can capture 95% of the fume.
  4. In a confined space, follow all the OSHA confined-space rules — like air monitoring, not storing torches in the space, and ventilation.
  5. OSHA says you must have good ventilation.
  6. Use local-exhaust ventilation to remove fumes and gases at their source in still air. Keep the exhaust hood opening 4" to 6" from the fume source.
  7. Use air blowers to blow fumes away from you when you are outdoors and it's windy.
  8. Keep your face far from the welding plume.
  9. If the ventilation is not good, use a respirator. If respirators are used, OSHA says your employer must have a full respiratory protection program. This means proper selection and fitting of respirators, medical screening to be sure a worker can wear a respirator, and worker training. Correct respirator storage and cleaning and an evaluation of the program are needed.
  10. If you smoke, quit.

OSHA has limits for exposure to metals, gases, and total fumes during welding. But these limits may not protect you enough, because they are out of date. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says welding fumes may cause cancer, so keep the fume levels as low as possible.

For more information, call your local union, the Center to Protect Workers' Rights (CPWR) (301-578-8500 or www.cpwr.com ), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (1-800-35-NIOSH, 1-800-356-4674 or www.cdc.gov/niosh ), or OSHA (1-800-321-OSHA or www.osha.gov ).

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