Welding has many adverse health effects, including several deadly ones. A welder’s responsibility is to know them and take necessary actions. Previously we have already talked about how welding can damage your eyes, skin and cause cancer. But how do those happen? What are the ingredients that trigger such adversity? We must know it all.
So, does welding produce Ozone? Ozone is a potentially poisonous, chemically resistant gas that can cause lung damage. It is produced from oxygen in the atmosphere around the welding field. Monitoring exposure to ozone can be a difficult task. It is unstable towards other substances at high-temperature. It is also a powerful oxidizing gas, a potent germicide, invisible to the human eye at average concentrations.
Ozone can cause permanent lung damage once you are exposed for a prolonged period. However, you can stay safe by following proper preventive methods. As you read ahead, you will find the various necessary information on how welding produces Ozone gas and how it affects your health.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Does Welding Produce Ozone?
- 2 Risks Associated with Exposure to Ozone
- 3 Precautions
- 4 Conclusion
How Does Welding Produce Ozone?
Arc welding produces many hazardous gases, Ozone (O3) being one of them. Ozone is produced by the welding arc and the resulting ultraviolet oxygen radiation in the surrounding air. Owing to the high temperature emitted by the welding arc, the generated light is very intense and contains radiation in the ultraviolet range of 130-400nm. It then splits the air’s oxygen molecules and produces free “excited” oxygen atoms that readily connect with other oxygen molecules to form Ozone.
Most of the welding processes generate Ozone. The two that produce the highest levels of Ozone are Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding and Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding.
1. Metal Inert Gas Welding (MIG)
Metal Inert Gas Welding (MIG) is one of the most popular welding methods. So, welders use it for various metal types, including copper, nickel, stainless steel, and their alloys.
MIG is faster than other methods and offers a professional finish. Hence, it is used in industrial weldings such as welding on pressure vessels, vehicles, bridges, and cranes.
The method involves the flow of an electrical arc between the base metal and a continuous solid-core consumable electrode. Shielding gas is provided, and the electrode does not have a flux coating or core.
While GMAW needs a higher electrical current than SMAW, GMAW generates fewer fumes since the electrode does not have any fluxing agents. Due to the intense current level, it results in high levels of nitrogen oxides and O3.
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2. Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) Welding
Tungsten inert gas welding or TIG is one of the most commonly used metal welding methods in the industry. Welders conduct TIG welding on metals such as aluminium, carbon steel, magnesium, brass, stainless steel, copper-nickel, and silver alloys.
Welders often use this method for thin or light metals like magnesium alloys, aluminium, and copper.TIG resists corrosion or cracking. It provides you with a quality weld with low thermal distortion.
The filler metal is fed manually while the shielding gas is supplied externally. High electrical currents are used, which cause the process to emit significant levels of ozone, nitric oxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
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Risks Associated with Exposure to Ozone
So, why is Ozone such a vital topic here? In short, Ozone has many hazardous effects on our health, including some fatal ones. According to the Fact Sheet on Controlling Hazardous Fumes and Gases during Welding from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it has both short-term and long-term effects on our health.
1. Throat and Chest Irritation
TIG involves stainless steel and aluminium that generates Ozone. It causes throat and chest irritation, one of the temporary or short-term effects of welding. The fine particles and gases in the welding fume can render the throat feel dry or cause chest tightness or coughing.
2. Metal Fume Fever
Another temporary or short-term effect of exposure is metal fume fever. Although it is nothing serious and doesn’t have any long-term impact, the exposure can keep you sick for some time.
3. Cancer Risk
The Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances has identified Ozone as carcinogenic. Therefore, it poses considerable risk of causing cancer. You can check out “does welding cause cancer?” to find the cancer risks associated with welding.
Asthma is a long-term health hazard. Research has found that welders are at a higher risk of asthma diagnosis than other occupations. Stainless-steel fumes contain nickel oxide and chromium oxide (CrO3). These two chemicals have a direct link with asthma.
Ozone exposure can damage your lungs severely. It can lead to severe and potentially dangerous pneumonia. Taking standard antibiotics usually helps to stop the bacteria before it gets life-threatening. But, it can still cause other issues.
Precaution is better than cure. Exposure to Ozone has many short-term and long-term effects, including some life-threatening ones. But, these are avoidable by following proper preventive methods.
1. 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 add another toxic element to the process. Therefore, remove any coatings or paints from the welding surface before welding. It is advisable to avoid chlorinated solvents for cleaning the welding field.
2. Ensure Proper Ventilation
Welding should be executed in a properly ventilated area. Whether the ventilation is natural or forceful, the air must pass through freely. Thus, it will reduce gasses and fumes in workspaces.
3. Prefer Using an Exhaust System
Exhaust systems can remove gases and fumes from the worker’s breathing zone. In case it is a portable or flexible exhaust system, place it so that it sends the gasses and fumes away from near the welding area. Make sure that the exhaustion pipe is nowhere near other welders.
4. Wear Respiratory Mask
Not always these ventilation methods are enough. Hence, consider wearing a respiratory mask to double your safety.
5. Choosing Welding Method
Flexibility can be a life-saving factor here. While different welding types require a separate process, it is wise to practice something that emits comparatively few fumes or ultraviolet radiations.
High electrical currents used in welding generate high levels of nitric oxide, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. And it has several hazardous effects on our health, including some potentially life-threatening. We hope, by now, you have had your answer and understood the gravity of the issue. So, follow the precautions and protect yourself from the impending dangers of welding. That said, we hope you enjoy your job more while leading a healthy life.