Welding provides great benefits. But with great benefits come consequences. The product of welding is fused metals, but it also gives off fumes and gases that are potentially dangerous to humans. It is important to understand what these fumes and gases are and how to prevent them from affecting your life.
What Are Welding Fumes?
Welding fumes are a product of heating a metal above its boiling point. These fumes actually contain particles of metal, along with oxides. Different metals create different types of welding fumes, but as a general rule they are all dangerous and shouldn’t be inhaled.
Coatings found on metals can increase the danger. Coatings include metal working fluids, zinc, plating, lead oxide primer paints, and even some plastic coatings. When welding, it is beneficial to remove the coatings from the metal prior to starting the weld as this will reduce the amount of toxic fumes.
When you remove the coating prior to welding, you are taking away toxins before they are vaporized into fumes. This is much safer than welding while the coatings are still on the metal. Ensure that all residue is removed from the metal if you are using stripping products to remove coatings. Grinding coatings is discouraged, as the dust may be toxic as well.
What Are Welding Gases?
Gases are either used or produced during the welding process. Shielding gases (argon, helium, etc), fuel gases (a, and oxygen are sometimes administered during welding to improve the process.
Gases are also produced from decomposition of fluxes, interaction with ozone, and even ultraviolet light reacting with vapors.
Whether using or producing gas, breathing them in is oftentimes harmful. It is best to protect yourself from these gases and fumes altogether.
What Are the Dangers of Welding Fumes and Gases?
Welding fumes have been known to contribute to many diseases. Even light exposure to fumes may cause welding fume fever, which causes chills, fever, muscle aches, wheezing, fatigue, and even nausea.
Longer exposure to welding fumes has been known to contribute to respiratory problems, cancer, hearing loss, heart disease, various skin diseases, and even stomach ulcers.
Welding gases are also very harmful to health. Gases, when exposed to high temperatures, can create very lethal explosions. It is important to follow safety protocols and prevent fumes and gases from building up in the welding area.
How to Prevent the Effects of Fumes and Gases
The best way for people who aren’t welding to not be affected is to stay away from the welding activities. Stay behind welding curtains at all times if you do not have the proper welding equipment.
For those who are welding, proper ventilation must be in place to prevent the side effects of the fumes and gases. A local exhaust system is best, and should be placed as close to the weld as possible to maximize the fumes and gases exiting the facility. If a local exhaust system is not an option, the combination of open doors and/or windows, fans, and welding curtains may be used to funnel fumes and gases out and fresh air in.
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