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The dangers of welding fumes

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2021 | Workers' Compensation |

Welders in North Carolina perform an important job that exposes them to many risks. During the welding process, heat can reach 15,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and sparks can fly in front of the welder’s face. There are obvious risks of electric shock, burns, and vision damage in welding work. However, other invisible risks are just as dangerous.

Toxic fumes in welding

When metal reaches such an extreme temperature that it boils, toxic fumes are released into the air around it. A welder is exposed to fumes that are composed of fine particles of metallic oxides, fluorides, and silicates, to name just a few things. Whatever chemicals or residue that coats the metal will add to the toxic cocktail. Some of the metals and gases that welding fumes contain include:

• Arsenic
• Argon
• Aluminum
• Beryllium
• Helium
• Nitrogen dioxide

The composition of welding fumes varies depending on the types of metals that are being worked with. For example, steel welding fumes are mostly composed of iron with smaller amounts of nickel, manganese, chromium, and other particles.

Short and prolonged exposure to welding fumes

Welders need to wear heavy-duty gear to protect themselves from exposure to toxic fumes. Even a brief exposure to toxic fumes can cause noticeable side effects. A worker may experience dizziness, nausea, and irritation in their eyes, nose, and throat. If a worker does not leave the area immediately, prolonged exposure to welding fumes can cause serious problems like:

• Cancer
• Stomach ulcers
• Kidney damage
• Lung damage
• Asphyxiation
• Cognitive problems
• Digestive disorders

Many problems associated with welding fumes can lead to workers’ compensation claims. Welders may need treatment for acute symptoms or long-term conditions.

Compensation for past exposure

Some people who no longer work in welding develop conditions that started in their welding days. For example, a cancer diagnosis may come many years after a welder retires. A former welder may still be able to pursue compensation for welding-related diseases.