10 Reasons Proper Weld Fume Extraction is Important

  1. Ultimately an unhealthy work environment can have an extremely negative impact on profitability
  2. A single welder can produce 20 – 40 g fumes per hour, or upwards of 70 kg a year!
  3. The haze you see in a lot of metal fabrication departments is the result of the vaporization of metal and flux. The majority of this haze originates from the welding consumable, with the rest being attributed to the base metal. As it cools the vapor condenses and bonds with oxygen in the air to form very fine particles. As a rule of thumb the smaller the particle the greater the danger: particles larger than 5 µm are deposited in the upper respiratory track, while those from from 0.1-5 µm penetrate deep into the lungs.
  4. Once common concern for welders is exposure to Hexavalent chromium Cr(VI); a known carcinogen. These particles can be as small as 0.01 µm. See https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hexchrom/default.html – “NIOSH considers all Cr(VI) compounds to be occupational carcinogens. Cr(VI) is a well-established carcinogen associated with lung, nasal, and sinus cancer. Some of the industries in which the largest numbers of workers are exposed to high concentrations of airborne Cr(VI) compounds include electroplating, welding, and chromate painting.”
  5. Manganese is another common concern: long term exposure at high enough concentrations can damage the nervous system (Parkinson’s Manganism). From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4515672/ “ . . . excessive and prolonged inhalation of Mn particulates in mining, welding and industries results in its accumulation in selected brain regions that causes central nervous system (CNS) dysfunctions and an extrapyramidal motor disorder, referred to as manganism. Prolonged and chronic occupational exposure to Mn (>1 mg/m3) represents a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease.”
  6. Pneumoconiosis – a chronic respiratory disease caused by inhaling metallic or mineral particles; in particular siderosis, a type of pneumoconiosis, related to inhaling iron oxide http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/occup_workplace/welder.html
  7. From WorkSafe magazine January/February 2017 – “More than eight out of ten welders — there are around 100,000 in Canada — are said to be exposed to lead, which can cause stomach, lung, kidney, and brain cancers, while five out of ten are exposed to nickel, which can lead to nasal and lung cancer.”
  8. One of the best solutions available on the market provides for the extraction of these harmful fumes at the source (such as a properly located extraction arm, or a welding torch with an integrated “on-torch” fume extractor). Hoods placed over workbenches aren’t optimal as the smoke inevitably contaminates the general airflow. They can also impact energy conservation as they have a tendency to extract large amounts of heated (or cooled) air from the workplace.
  9. If you’ve elected to use an extraction arm as your means of protection, best practice stipulates that the hood should be positioned close to and above the arc at about a 45° angle, with the welder positioning his or her head outside of the extraction zone.
  10. If your welders are required to work inside of restricted areas that won’t permit the use of a conventional extraction arm, weld fumes can be effectively removed with the on-torch method mentioned above. They are also common for robotic welding applications.

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