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Welding Safety Issues: Hazards of Welding Fume Inhalation

Date: 12-12-2018

Welding fumes, as of 2017, now fall under the category of Group 1 carcinogens. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), these welding fumes now show sufficient evidence of having harmful effects on humans. Increased inhalation of welding fumes is dangerous, which highlights the importance of investing in welding safety products such as respirators and full welding masks.

Welding Fume Composition

The smoke emissions from welding operations contain gas by-products and metal fumes that can harm operators without the proper equipment. These fumes contain metallic oxides and fluorides borne from the heating and melting process. Depending on the main material, the composition of the fumes can also vary and include metallic silicates and other metal additives.

The coating used in the material can also contribute to the composition of the metallic fumes. The presence of paints and solvents on the welded material, for example, can affect not only the weld quality but also the smoke emissions.

Beryllium, cadmium oxides, chromium and nickel are airborne contaminants that are known to cause negative effects on welding operators.

Dangers of Welding Fumes

The IARC classifies carcinogens depending on the amount of evidence that proves it has cancerous effects. Welding fumes fall under the Group 1 classification, which are "showcasing sufficient evidence" to be cancerous. For comparison, Group 2 contains Group 2A for those that are probably carcinogenic and Group 2B for materials that are possibly carcinogenic.

Exposure to these airborne contaminants can lead to safety concerns for the operators. Welding workers can suffer from conditions like asthma, pneumonia and throat irritation, which can compromise the respiratory system. Other effects include metal fume fever and persistent pulmonary bronchitis, especially in cases of excessive fume inhalation.  

Fume Extraction Systems

Local extraction is the most effective method: The hazardous substances are captured right at the source before they reach the welders breathing zone. This provides the best protection to the welder and is the number one control measure in the Hierarchy of Risk Management. A quality reliable MIG extraction torch such as the Sumig 400A Extraction Torch combined with a Mobile Fume Extractor will provide the ideal workshop solution for fume control. Alphaweld offers fume extractors in both single and twin options.

Respirators and Welding Helmets

Although this option is the lowest level of control on the Risk Management Hierarchy is it generally the most common and easiest method used. Wearing of correct personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential to reduce the harmful effects of welding fumes. Welding helmets, for example, are usually these days have their own air supply system (PAPR) that ensures air supply that is unaffected by the smoke emissions from welding. They are good for restricting localized fume ingression but these welding helmets should be also paired with good ventilation in the worksite to ensure the proper management.

If your welding helmet is not PAPR then wearing the best quality respirator with correct fitting is mandatory to effective control. Did you know that facial hair growth from a single shift could be enough to break the seal of your tight-fitting respirator Fume particles are much smaller than the size of an average human hair and the side effects may not appear until a long time afterwards and prevention is far more preferable than treating the effects. Always ensure that your respirator fits correctly.

At Alphaweld, we offer a great range loose-fitting respirators and welding helmets with powered or supplied air that can provide a much higher level of protection as they form a gentle yet positive seal around the user’s neck and maintain positive pressure within. This option gives more space for facial hair and allows users to shave or not to shave as they please. For example, the RPB Z-4 and the RPB Z-Link. Welding Helmets are the most versatile multi-purpose respirator systems in the marketplace. Designed with the primary focus on comfort they are lightweight yet extremely tough and durable. From welding or grinding to chemical handling, these helmets serve a broad spectrum of industries and applications. The Z-4 is most ergonomically balanced welding & grinding PAPR helmet available in the marketplace.

Highly Reliable Welding Suppliers

With Fume Protection their is no "one-sloution-that-fits-all" so here at Alphaweld, we have an expansive catalogue of welding equipment and supplies that meet the sourcing demands of multiple industries. Our products incorporate the latest innovations in welding technologies, offering unparalleled performance and safety for welding operators. Our catalogue also includes welding torches, consumables, safety apparel, accessories, abrasives, drills and other related welding equipment. We are committed to providing turnkey solutions and quality customer service for companies looking to partner with a welding equipment supplier. With Alphaweld, we can make your welding project easy for you.

Source your welding solutions now. Call us on (08) 9456 8000 or send us an email at