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Fumes are a well known occupational hazard that affects everyone doing any sort of welding or soldering. Welding fumes are especially hazardous, as more of them are produced and it’s much more difficult to clean them.
Because it’s impossible to say exactly how much of each toxic or carcinogenic substance is in the fumes we breathe, it’s much more prudent to reduce the amount of fume exposure overall.
So what negative health effects can be caused by welding fumes, and how can a welding fume extractor help reduce them?
There are many different compounds, including heavy metals and poison gases, that are produced during welding. We can classify these compounds based on what damage they could cause. Some substances cause respiratory illness. Others are carcinogenic and are implicated in several different types of cancers. Then there’s ones that can be fatal if exposed to at too high a concentration.
Some substances can cause serious damage to the lungs and respiratory organs. Symptoms of respiratory illness include an itchy or sore throat, excessive mucus, coughing and wheezing, and shortness of breath. But even if these symptoms aren’t present, these substances can cause serious lung damage.
These substances include iron oxides, aluminum oxide, magnesium oxide, and titanium dioxide.
Some hazardous compounds in welding fumes have been implicated in causing cancers of the respiratory tract. As a result, it’s important to minimize exposure as much as possible. However, since there’s no way to determine how much of one of these substances is likely to cause cancer, there’s no way to determine a “safe” minimum exposure level.
Substances include lead oxide, formaldehyde, Chrome(VI) compounds, beryllium oxide, and cobalt oxide.
There are also hazardous compounds that can cause complications such as pulmonary edema, nervous system damage, liver damage, kidney damage, brain damage, and Parkinson’s disease.
Substances include lead oxide, copper oxide, carbon monoxide, and phosgene.
Welding fume extractor systems were created in order to address this very issue. The way they work is by sucking up the contaminated air, filtering it, then blowing the clean air into the room. The hazardous substances are caught in the filters which are built specifically for these kinds of compounds.
Portable welding fume extractors, such as the ones provided by IP Systems USA, are excellent protection for jobs that change location frequently. All shops should invest in welding fume extraction systems to protect their workers.