There are several health effects of welding. Welders follow various welding methods. But most of these fall in the oxy-fuel or electric arc welding category. Thus welders get exposed to many known and suspected carcinogens. If you are one of the passionate welders, make sure you read it whole.
So, does welding cause cancer? In short, it does. Welding produces contaminants in fumes and UV radiations during both oxy-fuel and electric arc welding. These are Type 1 carcinogens that promote carcinogenesis, the formation of cancer. Thus, it poses a considerable risk of causing the disease.
Welders, if not correctly protected, have a higher chance of getting it. So, it is essential you know the hazards before you make any silly move and damn yourself. As you read ahead, you will be learning about Cancer- one of the significant risks of welding.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Contaminants Causing Cancer
- 2 Effect of Ultraviolet Radiation
- 3 Effect of Welding Fumes
- 4 Other Findings Related to Welding Risks
- 5 Precautions to Follow
- 5.1 1. Proper Ventilation
- 5.2 2. Prepare the Surface
- 5.3 3. Power Settings
- 5.4 4. Choosing Welding Method
- 5.5 5. Use PPE
- 5.6 6. Protection of Others
- 5.7 7. Job Rotation
- 6 Conclusion
The Contaminants Causing Cancer
Welding fumes are one of the most significant risk factors for cancer. When you boil a metal above its boiling point, it emits welding fumes. Soon after it cools down, there are fine particles from the material that mixes into the air. When welders breathe, it gets into their lungs and possesses the threat of lung cancer. Most of these carcinogenic fumes are invisible to the naked eye and, therefore, more threatening in nature.
So, how do these fumes cause cancer? These fumes contain silicates, fluorides, metallic oxides, and other cancer-causing agents that are sure to affect your body sooner or later. Below we have mentioned some cancer-causing welding fumes.
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In welding, chromium is often used as a plating material. You can see them being used in mostly high-alloyed metals, stainless steel, etc. Most of the chromium used in welding is carcinogenic.
Nickel is another carcinogenic element that we use mostly on high-alloy materials, stainless steel, and welding rods.
3. Cadmium Oxides
These are stainless steel alloys containing zinc alloy, plated materials, and cadmium. It is one of the most hazardous fumes that contribute to carcinogens in the air.
Effect of Ultraviolet Radiation
Different types of welding produce various carcinogens. Previously you have known about the multiple contaminants that welding produces. UVR is one of the significant risk factors in this process. Electric arc welding and laser welding produce substantial amounts of ultraviolet radiation across the room.
Workers get exposed to the direct UV rays produced by the electric arc, reflecting on smooth and hard surfaces around them and filling the whole room with radiation. So, it is not just one ray, but a room full of rays. Therefore, apart from skin cancer from welding, there are cataracts, eye damage, and sunburn too caused by these ultraviolet radiations.
Effect of Welding Fumes
Welding fumes are indeed dangerous. And exposure to them can prove fatal. Also, there is no escape once you are exposed. With varying symptoms, there are consequences at the end. Some people get ill every week, while others don’t. But they are likely to get something severe in the next few years.
Welding fumes are a group 1 carcinogen, meaning they are highly dangerous for health and possess a greater cancer risk. Prolonged exposure to this fume leaves you at a higher risk of having it. Previously experts used to say that fumes associated with welding stainless steel are the most dangerous. But, the latest studies prove that almost all welding fumes are carcinogenic.
For instance, nickel compounds and chromium are known to cause lung cancer and are usually present in gases when welders weld stainless steel. In other forms of steel, which appear to contain gases of more fine particulates, these metals are at much lower concentrations – tiny liquid and solid bits of soot, debris, and chemicals that can damage the lungs.
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Other Findings Related to Welding Risks
Welding has several health effects, including lung cancer, skin cancer, eye diseases, etc. But, they are not the only ones. To determine how toxic the carcinogens are, scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer compared various welding fume findings. They noticed that the gases are cancerous not only for welders but also for all the surrounding workers working in the same factory. The risk increases more when or if the workers consume tobacco or breathe in asbestos.
Precautions to Follow
By now, you have gathered enough knowledge about the risk factors of welding. It is indeed a risky task with several hazardous outcomes. But, those are avoidable if you follow specific rules. Below we have mentioned some of the preventive methods to avoid welding risks.
1. Proper Ventilation
The room where you are welding must have proper ventilation to control the room’s welding fume amount. Unfortunately, natural ventilation is not enough in this case. Instead, you would require to combine a forced dilution ventilation process and local exhaust to get the job done.
2. Prepare the Surface
Preparing the surface is one of the crucial tasks to consider. Any reaction during the welding process with pain or coatings can exhaust dangerous fumes. Therefore, remove any coatings or paints from the welding surface before starting the process. It is advisable to avoid chlorinated solvents for cleaning the welding field.
3. Power Settings
The best way to avoid or decrease the risk is by taking down the amount of fume exhaustion. Therefore, welders should control the power setting to avoid increased amounts of fumes.
4. Choosing Welding Method
Flexibility can be a life-saving factor here. While different welding types require a different process, it is wise to practice something that emits comparatively few fumes or ultraviolet radiations.
5. Use PPE
All welders should wear proper PPE before starting the process. As a welder, you must wear air purifying respiratory protection. It filters the air particles that you would otherwise breathe in. You should also wear a welding helmet with a UV-filtered lens. It would protect your eyes from radiation. Be sure you wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers that would safeguard your whole skin to avoid adverse exposures to UV rays.
6. Protection of Others
Welding fumes and radiations are different. While radiations may not get out of a room, fumes can. They mix and spread with air. So, factories should consider having an isolated welding room, separate from other departments of the factory. Nowadays, many companies are using automated welding machines to avoid hazardous results among welders.
7. Job Rotation
Cancer is a result of prolonged exposure to UV radiation and fumes. So, the most basic and easiest way to prevent this is by rotating the welders’ jobs. As a welder, be sure to share your job with others instead of continuing it for a prolonged period. It would decrease the risks since no one has to stay with the welding fumes for a long time.
Welding can mean many things to you. It can also be your passion. But that must not lead you to the end of your life. The best way to enjoy your job is by ensuring your protection first. Welding possesses a greater risk of cancer for those who are exposed to the fumes and radiations. But it is avoidable if you follow the preventive methods. Now that you know both the risks and the escape, we hope you will act smarter and ensure your protection.