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Welding fumes can cause long-term health problems

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, welders in Minnesota and across the United States face serious health hazards on the job. The agency says both fusion and pressure welding produce harmful metal fumes and gas byproducts that can cause short- and long-term health problems if workers are not properly protected.

Welding fumes contain a variety of dangerous metals and gases, including aluminum, arsenic, lead, argon, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Short-term exposure to welding fumes can cause dizziness, nausea and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Long-term exposure has been linked to cancer of the larynx, lung and urinary tract and damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Suffocation is also possible if welding takes place in an enclosed space.

To reduce worker exposure to hazardous fumes and gases, OSHA recommends that all workers learn the dangers associated with welding. The agency also recommends that all work surfaces be frequently cleaned to remove toxic coatings and that workers attempt to stay upwind from any fumes when working outdoors. Local exhaust ventilation systems should be used for indoor welding, and workers should never weld in an enclosed space without proper ventilation. Workers are also urged to wear respiratory protection when fumes are present.

While workers' compensation is commonly associated with workplace injuries, benefits may also be payable to people who have incurred occupational diseases as well, such as by repeated exposure to toxic fumes. These claims may be more difficult to prove, however, which is why having the assistance of an attorney might be advisable.

Source: Safety and Health, "Welding fume hazards," June 26, 2016

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