Welding is an industry rife with occupational hazards. Countless injuries occur every year, ranging from small burns and cuts to life-threatening health problems and chemical poisoning. However, welding is also an extremely rewarding profession that many people enjoy as a hobby.
So how do these professionals and hobbyists stay safe while working in a dangerous field? Staying educated is the best way to prepare for accidents, so let’s explore in detail one of the more threatening hazards in welding—metal fume fever. Here is everything you need to know about identifying and preventing toxic fume exposures.
Metal fume fever is a temporary ailment caused by exposure to toxic metal oxide fumes. While most metal oxides can cause symptoms and complications related to fume fever, the most common include zinc, brass, galvanized iron, and galvanized steel. Officials aren’t sure about the exact amount of fume exposure required to contract metal fume fever.
It affects everybody differently—most people feel symptoms earlier, as they lack some tolerance to the fumes. Luckily, effects only last one to two days with little to no long-term consequences on the body. The real danger is repeated metal fume fever, as this can cause damage to the nervous system and, in some instances, respiratory functions.
So how can you identify signs of severe fume exposure? Metal fume fever causes flu-like symptoms, such as chills, fever, coughs, headaches, and chest pain. These effects present quickly, even causing some individuals to faint. Recognizing these ailments quickly is essential for stopping progressive complications.
As such, anyone presenting signs of metal fume fever should be given adequate time away from their working environment. Allowing symptoms to worsen can cause stomach ulcers, kidney problems, and even Parkinson’s-like tendencies.
So if metal fume fever is a real threat within the industry, why do millions of welders come to work every day? Quite simply, metal fume fever is rare thanks to massive improvements in safety machinery, regulations, and practices. OSHA requires that welding workshops have adequate space and air dilution to maintain low levels of toxic fumes present.
This includes ensuring sufficient natural ventilation, machine-assisted ventilation, and fume extraction within the working environment. The latter is achieved through fume extractor devices that eliminate toxins with negative drafts and filters. Other ways to prevent overexposure include wearing proper PPE and regular maintenance of your ventilation devices.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of different illnesses caused by welding, especially metal fume fever, is vital for maintaining a safe and functional workshop. These tips apply to both professionals and hobbyists, so ensure you understand the risks and how to prevent progressive problems.