Welding Safety - Dealing with welding fumes

A normal by-product of welding are fumes. These fumes can have immediate and long term health risks. Up until just a few years ago, it was common to walk into welding shops and see a blue, gray or brown haze in the air. This was just an accepted thing to see, until more study and occupational laws began to tighten up. The short term hazards, of certain fumes can range from mild nausea and disorientation to death. Long term hazards can result in serious health issues including cancer, memory loss, and asthma like symptoms. One of the fumes created by welding stainless steel is the infamous hexavalent chromium, the chemical by product made famous by the Erin Brochovich movie. This can create birth defects in children and tumors.

It is almost guaranteed that any amount of welding will result in some fume inhalation. The best that can be done is to use common sense when dealing with the fumes to try to reduce the total amount of exposure. Welding outdoors when possible is a good place to start. This allows most fumes to be vented away from the area quickly. However, some fumes wills still be present. When stuck indoors, the ventilation is a must. Doors should be open if filtered ventilation systems aren’t present. Efforts must be taken to keep the welder’s head out of the direct flume of fumes. Ideally, a respirator designed specifically for welder’s helmets should be used, but many small shops and homes don’t have that available as a practical consideration. Maintaining a watchful eye, and a conscious awareness of the presence of the direction the flowing fumes are taking at all times will cut down on exposure. As stated, it is nearly impossible to eliminate all exposure. But exercising caution combined with a little effort will greatly reduce much of the risk so that long term and short term health outlook is much better.