Welding can be a dangerous job, leading to breathing difficulties, an illness called manganism that is similar to Parkinson’s disease and even Parkinson’s disease itself. Welding fumes may cause many of these health problems, since they contain harmful substances such as iron, manganese, chromium, cadmium and nickel.
Manganese In Welding Fumes
Welding rods, especially steel, can give off manganese-containing fumes during the welding process. Although small amounts of manganese are contained in your food, breathing in this metal excessively damages your nervous system. As a result, many welders develop a condition called manganese poisoning or “manganism.” Many of its symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s disease. Because of the overlap between the two conditions, some researchers call manganism a form of “Parkinsonism” or “Parkinsonian syndrome.” See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed below and you have worked around welding fumes:
- Tremors or shaking
- Balance problems
- Slowed movement (doctors call this “bradykinesia”)
- Stiffness and difficulty moving
- Problems moving your face muscles (a “mask–like” face)
- Slurred speech
Other Harmful Metals In Welding Fumes
As a welder, manganism and Parkinson’s disease might not be your only health concerns. Welders are also more likely to suffer from severe, long–lasting lung infections, bronchitis and asthma. Studies have seen an increased rate of bronchitis and reduced lung capacity in career welders. Welders may also contract siderosis, temporarily reduced lung capacity due to iron oxide exposure.
Some researchers have linked excess manganese exposure to impotence and infertility in men. Others have suggested that welders exposed to manganese in welding fumes develop anxiety, nervousness, memory loss, learning problems and aggressive behavior. The effect of manganese on a woman’s reproductive system is not clear, and more studies need to be done on manganese and fertility in both men and women.
Welding on some plated or painted metals may be especially hazardous. Cadmium is often used as a coating on steel to prevent rust. However, cadmium in welding fumes causes the lung disease emphysema, as well as kidney failure.
If you cut a metal that has been coated with paint that contains lead, it may give off welding fumes containing lead oxide. Inhaling these welding fumes can cause lead poisoning, a condition in which you become weak and develop anemia (a low red blood cell count). Lead also harms your nervous system, kidneys and reproductive system.
Some welding rods are also coated with asbestos. Asbestos fibers may be released during welding, increasing a welder’s chances of contracting asbestos–related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and a severe cancer called mesothelioma. It can take decades to develop an asbestos-related disease — at least 15 years for asbestosis and 40 years or more for mesothelioma. Symptoms of these diseases, including cough, shortness of breath and fatigue, are similar to symptoms of many other diseases.
Welding With Ultraviolet Light
Arc welding involves ultraviolet light. If welding is done near solvents containing chlorinated hydrocarbons, the ultraviolet light can react with the solvents to form phosgene gas, which is deadly in even small amounts. Looking at ultraviolet light without proper eye protection may lead to “welder’s flash,” which is damage to the cornea of your eye. Symptoms include blurred vision and a burning sensation in your eyes. Although the condition takes about a week to heal, you risk permanent eye damage if you are often exposed to ultraviolet light for long periods of time.
Welding Fumes And Your Legal Rights
Despite the harm that can be caused by welding fumes, welding rod manufacturers did not issue warnings about manganese in their products for many years. Finally, these companies included cautions on the bottom of cartons or packages holding numerous welding rods. This made it unlikely that you would see or understand the risk. Welding rod distributors and suppliers may also have hidden the dangers of working with welding rods.
If you have been injured by welding fumes, you may be able to receive compensation from these companies. Please contact us at Brayton Purcell to learn about your legal rights. We will not charge you a fee to review your claim. We have been handling cases involving toxic substances for over 20 years and are proud of our record of helping workers.