Fumes: a hazard of welding
Can you hold your breath while welding?
There is no doubt that we run into health risks every single day. As some people wryly joke, everything causes cancer in the state of California. Whether you accidentally eat a seed in an apple or you drive your car to work, you face a certain risk to your health. There are government agencies who sole purpose is to regulate and eliminate health hazards in both the home and work.
Hold Your Breath While Welding?
Hexavalent Chromium is another issue encountered with welding Stainless Steel. Breathing this may not show any immediate effects. But it is a dangerous by product of Stainless steel welding. Keep this in mind while welding anything you suspect to be stainless. Cancer, and asthma are serious side effects and may not show up until years down the road. Some people discount the potential risk, saying they have been welding stainless all their life, and nothing has happened to them. Well, not yet anyway, right? Dead people do not speak.
A related issue is the accidental or intentional use of brake cleaner, or any chloro/flouro carbon based chemical as a metal cleaner before welding. Welding on a piece of metal that was cleaned with brake cleaner releases phosgene gas, a substance used in chemical war fare. Inhaling just a drop of vaporized residue could kill you or leave you seriously sick. Usually it’s a painful death that ensues over the course of days, if not months.
There are other risks from breathing smoke and fumes from all welding processes in general. Cancer is a real risk, especially, for those who already smoke or abuse their bodies with substances. Heart attack chances can increase as well. The complete carcinogenic effects of welding may never be fully known or understood. However, breathing all welding fumes should be minimized at all times. Open areas are the best. Having a fume hood, or fan with open windows is a good way to fend them off indoors. If you are concerned with smoke while welding, try slowing your breathing or holding your breath before you start welding. This is not fool proof by any means, but it can help minimize exposure to those who are making short welds. Yet, for some, none of these measures may be a practical solution. The welding may have to be done down in a tank where there is not any relief or escape. For many, a respirator is the only solution. They are not cheap however, and before purchase, a little research will need to be done on compatibility with your helmet, and headgear. However, though they can be bulky and hot, a respirator might just be the thing you really need for a lifetime of worry free welding. Minimization, if not elimination to exposure is key to enjoying a long life of safe and happy welding.