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Steven M. Lee, PC

Q:
I weld for a living in a Houston shipyard, and have noticed that the ventilation where I work is not very good. Is this something I should address with OSHA?

A:

When most people think about the dangers of welding, they probably envision the obvious risks associated with high heat and intense light. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has made it clear, however, that its biggest concerns are beyond the obvious dangers.

Welding exposes the welder to several chemical agents via fumes that are created. The inhalation of these fumes can cause numerous health issues that range from discomfort to potentially fatal. Several different compounds and alloys found in various metals, cleaning agents, and paints may be harmless enough when left in standard temperatures, but heated to a great degree release harmful fumes.

Below are some of the most toxic—and common—chemical fumes that can cause health hazards to maritime welders in Houston:

  • Nitrogen Oxides and Ozone: A product of the ultraviolet light from a welding arc, these gases can irritate mucous membranes and lead to fluid buildup in a welder’s lungs, known as pulmonary edema.
  • Manganese: Manganese is a metal found in many alloys. When levels of manganese compounds become elevated in the body, the result can be severe neurological problems, including activation of genes that lead to Parkinson’s disease.
  • Lead: Found in many metals and paints, welding something with lead content can lead to lead oxide fumes. These fumes can cause anemia, central nervous system problems, and brain damage.
  • Mercury: Mercury is often found in exterior paint on ships to prevent the growth of marine algae and other flora. When exposed to the high temperatures of welding, mercury can cause respiratory failure, tremors, and even hearing loss.
  • Cadmium: A known human carcinogen, cadmium is commonly used as a rust preventative. Exposure to these fumes can cause pulmonary edema, kidney damage, and emphysema.

This is only a short list of the toxins found in welding fumes, but it serves to prove just how important proper ventilation is in welding areas. If you are concerned with the ventilation in your workspace, alerting your employers and contacting OSHA is never a bad plan. Your health and wellness should never be compromised on the job.

If you have further questions about your working conditions contributing to your health problems, feel free to contact us today by clicking on the live chat feature on this page.

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