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Addressing risks associated with welding fumes

Welding, like many occupations in North Carolina and elsewhere, carries serious health risks, particularly when a person is regularly exposed to welding fumes. Here are some of the dangers associated with welding, and several things welders can do to mitigate those dangers.

There are two forms of welding processes: pressure welding and fusion welding. Both types of welding techniques, however, produce a smoke that carries harmful gas byproducts and metal fumes. Some of the gas byproducts are carbon monoxide, nitrogen and argon. Metal fumes from welding can include a variety of metals such as manganese, lead, arsenic and aluminum.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, whenever welders inhale these fumes, they can experience minor health issues such as dizziness, nausea, and throat, nose or eye irritation. However, long-term exposure to welding fumes can cause harm to a person's kidneys and nervous system and could potentially lead to cancer of a person's urinary tract, larynx and lungs.

Through education and prevention, welders and their employers can minimize the dangers of welding fume exposure. Some preventative measures include keeping welding surfaces free from toxic substances, avoid welding in unventilated areas and requiring employees to wear respirators while welding.

Welders who experience serious health effects, such as lung cancer or kidney damage, from breathing in welding fumes at the workplace may apply for workers' compensation benefits, which could cover a portion of their medical expenses, payment for their permanent injuries or disabilities, and income lost during their recovery. Sometimes, however, employers delay or deny these benefits to their employees in an attempt to save money. Employees who are facing similar circumstances might consider contacting a workers' compensation attorney who could explain their legal rights and oversee the filing process.

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

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