No secret here that we love vertical dust collectors. They’re better than horizontal collectors in just about every way, which we discussed in our last post. Not all vertical dust collectors are created equal, however. Today, we’d like to share a customer’s experience with a competitor’s vertical dust collectors and why he’s choosing a CMAXX this time.

A manufacturing company approached us recently, looking to replace their current vertical cartridge collector. In the time since they purchased it, they’ve experienced many of the problems that we often see with other brands of dust collector. They even sent us pictures to show us what they were dealing with.

Rusted vertical dust collectorsRust is a major factor for any piece of metal equipment that’s going to be outside, exposed to the elements, for many years.  Most vertical dust collectors manufactured by competitors such as Camfil Farr and others are bolted together from the outside. Every external bolt hole is an opportunity for rust. In the photos, it’s easy to see where the bolt holes have rusted and allowed rust to form all over the collector.

The customer told us that they prefer the CMAXX design specifically because of experiencing this problem with their current collector. There are no external bolt holes on the CMAXX, so this is one problem they won’t have to worry about.

FARR Dust Collector rusted bolts

Another problem the customer has experienced with their current vertical dust collector is the roof: they have had to repaint it three times just to keep it from rusting through completely. This is a major issue, because a hole in the roof would allow the cartridges to get wet and be ruined. The customer has had serious concerns about the roof of this collector for years and has been struggling to keep the rust problem under control.

The customer liked the domed CrownTech roof of the CMAXX, which allows snow, water, and debris to slide off the roof instead of sitting on top. Unlike any of our competitors in the vertical dust collector market, the CMAXX is specifically designed to solve the problem of rusting on the collector roof. On a Camfil Farr or any other brand of vertical dust collector, everything that falls onto the roof sits on the roof. Over time, this causes the roof to rust and fail.

FARR Rusted Bolts and Rusted Roof

When you choose a dust collector, you’re making a major investment. Like our customer, you’re expecting this purchase to last for many years. You know you’ll have to replace filters. You’re expecting that certain parts, like valves, may need maintenance occasionally. This is typical maintenance you’ll perform on any vertical cartridge collector, whether it’s a CMAXX, Camfil Farr, or any other brand. However, repairing holes in a rusting roof isn’t something you probably planned to do, and with the CMAXX design you won’t have to.

Our customer sent us these photographs of their current collector to show us the concerns they had with it, especially the issue of rust on the roof and around external bolts. They are switching to CMAXX because it’s designed not to have these problems. With no external bolt holes and a domed roof to protect it from the weather, their new collector will give them many years of rust-free service.






Horizontal dust collectors are popular. They can fit a lot of filters into a fairly small footprint, and the manufacturers will tell you that they work better. In reality, horizontal filters and dust collectors have some serious design issues. Donaldson Torit may be one of the biggest names in dust collection, but there are some serious flaws in their collectors. As many owners have found out, it’s a design prone to failure.



Donaldson knows perfectly well that there’s a major problem with having horizontal filters on top of each other in a collector. They’ve tried everything, from suggesting you get in there and rotate the horizontal filters to designing new and weird filter shapes, but they can’t get around one basic problem: dust that pulses off a filter will land on the filter underneath it. With each compressed air pulse, a shower of dust falls directly down on the next layer of filters.

This problem blinds off a large part of the horizontal filter. To try to decrease the area that gets blinded off, Donaldson has produced oval and now triangle-shaped cartridges with less surface area facing upwards. This still doesn’t solve the basic design problem: it doesn’t make sense to filter dust just to drop piles of dust on top of your filters.

Filters in a horizontal collector cannot work at full efficiency because they are always getting covered with dust from the layer above them. Some manufacturers of horizontal collectors recommend you rotate your horizontal filters to keep the side that’s facing up from getting blinded off… but do you want to get into your collector and rotate dust-covered filters on a regular basis?



In a horizontal collector, metal yokes support the filters. These yokes are bolted to the tube sheet on one end. As the filters are put on the yoke, the first one in is pressed back against the tube sheet. The last filter to go in is pressed against the door when it closes.

There are several places for this arrangement to go wrong.

  • The yokes can easily be bent while putting filters on or taking them off
  • Yokes can pull away from the tube sheet, causing the gasket to leak
  • Weight on the yokes can pull on and warp the tube sheet itself, causing more leaks
  • The gasket sealing the filter to the door can fail if the yoke is bent
  • The gaskets on the door and tube sheet ends, as well as the ones between the filters, provide multiple points of failure and leaks



If you look at a horizontal collector, the first thing you’ll see is doors. They’re usually round, only a little wider than the horizontal filter that goes in them, and there are usually a lot of them.

Changing filters, or accessing anything inside the collector, means trying to work through these small round doors. Filters must be pulled off the yoke, and the ones in the back are difficult to reach. There isn’t that much room to reach in or access anything through these small doors.

Comparing a horizontal and a vertical collector, it’s easy to see how all of those small, round doors are a serious design problem. A vertical collector will usually have either one or two doors. When these doors are open, they give access to the entire space inside the collector.

With the doors of a vertical collector open, you can clearly see down into the hopper, and it’s easy to inspect for problems such as bridging. With the small round doors, it’s nearly impossible to see down into the hopper.

Because of the design of a Donaldson collector, there is no direct access to the clean air plenum. There are several reasons this can be a serious problem:

  • A leak occurring on the clean air side can’t be reached for repairs
  • No way to do routine maintenance or checks in this space
  • If a leak lets dust into the clean air plenum, there is no way to access it for cleaning


If one of the yokes gets bent, or for some other reason a gasket seal on the tube sheet fails, dust will get into the clean air plenum.

On a vertical collector like the CMAXX, it’s easy to open the doors, access the clean air plenum, and get rid of the dust.

In a Donaldson or other horizontal collector, accessing the clean air plenum often requires a crane to remove ductwork so you can get in and cut an access panel.

If you can’t do that, the dust in the clean air plenum will continue to get blown back into your facility over time. If it’s a health or fire hazard, this is a major issue.



The major advantage of a horizontal dust collector is the ability to stack filters on top of each other. This can save floor space by making the collector taller instead of wider. This is one of the major selling points of Donaldson Torit and other horizontal collectors.

Besides size, the other advantages usually listed are higher efficiency and less maintenance. These vague statements don’t really tell you much: the horizontal filters in a horizontal collector lose efficiency more quickly than in a vertical one because the tops of the filters blind off.

Also, anyone who has ever dealt with the many gaskets, easily damaged yokes, and tiny access doors might argue about the “less maintenance”. There is less to maintain on a horizontal dust collector because you cannot access most of the collector to do maintenance on it. If you do need to do maintenance or troubleshooting on the hopper or clean air plenum, you won’t have an easy time doing it.



A vertical collector like the CMAXX has none of the design flaws of Donaldson Torit and similar collectors. The single gasket where the filter meets the tube sheet greatly decreases the number of places you can get a leak. The clean air plenum and hopper are easy to access.

Everything in a vertical collector is easy to access: with a large door that opens to let you reach all the filters at once, you can easily get to every part of the collector. Filters are supported by sturdy lift rails that hold the filters securely against the tube sheet.

Because the filters in a CMAXX are not stacked on top of each other, dust that is pulsed off drops straight down into the hopper, instead of landing on other filters. The filters maintain a higher efficiency over time.

With all the advantages of a CMAXX, it seems clear that it’s a better choice. The people who may appreciate it the most are the people who have to maintain the system. After all, if you’re trying to fix a problem, you’d probably rather do it through one wide open access door than through a whole bunch of little round doors not much wider than a filter.





Imperial Systems Quarterly Newsletter | Issue I

Check out our first Issue of Dusty Jobs Newsletter. Articles include How to Troubleshoot a Diaphragm Valve Leak and story about a “greenhorn” draftsman.

Dusty Jobs Newsletter Issue 1


Download DUSTY JOBS | Issue 1 PDF


We’ve talked in previous posts about the health hazards of silica, and about the new OSHA regulations on silica dust exposure. Fortunately, there are solutions that can control silica dust on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) sites. Imperial Systems Inc. president and CEO Jeremiah Wann saw first-hand the struggles companies were having. There didn’t seem to be any good hydraulic fracturing silica dust solutions available for them.


Most solutions offered for silica dust exposure control were either impractical or not effective. Most respirators cannot handle the extremely high levels of silica in the air around the equipment at these sites, and respirators are often used incorrectly or not used at all. Stationary collection systems cannot be installed on sand moving trucks or on belts transporting sand across the site. Portable equipment is often bulky and requires ductwork and its own power supply.


Jeremiah spoke to managers and engineers at worksites about their issues. He found out about the problems that they were currently having, and the reasons the available options weren’t good enough.


Complicated Hydraulic Fracturing work site



Jeremiah found that one of the main issues in designing hydraulic fracturing silica solutions was the complexity of a fracking site. These are large areas with complex logistics, where sand has to be transferred between trucks, dumped onto belts, carried across the site, and loaded into mixers or storage containers.


Most silica control systems don’t work well on these sites. Standard equipment can’t be mounted on sand transport vehicles. Many systems have complex ductwork and need separate sources of power and compressed air. Running all of this to a collector can be extremely difficult under the conditions of a hydraulic fracturing site. Portable collectors are difficult to move around heavy equipment, too small to handle the dust load, and still require a separate power source.



Jeremiah realized that a dust collector used as a hydraulic fracturing silica solution needed to be as hassle-free and self-contained as possible. His patented solution was a CMAXX dust collector designed to be installed directly at the sources of silica release, even if these sources were on moving trucks. To accomplish this, all the connections to external ducts, compressed air, and power had to be cut.


The CMAXX for hydraulic fracturing sites is a complete plug-and-play system, the first and only fully integrated dust collector for fracking sand equipment. It can be mounted on sand transport trucks, at the points where sand is being moved onto and off of transport belts, and over mixers and other equipment. The fans and airlocks are operated with hydraulics powered by the vehicle, and the compressed air is powered by a generator.


Silica Dust at the Hydraulic Fracturing site


The CMAXX runs and pulse cleans automatically whenever the equipment is running. This means there’s no need to turn it on and off, and no chance of someone forgetting and using the equipment without the collector on. No extra ductwork, hoses, or wiring makes it an ideal hydraulic fracturing silica solution. By listening to the needs and concerns of the people who work on fracking sites, Jeremiah was able to design a solution that reduced visible silica emissions up to 99% across the entire site.


As an added bonus, controlling silica emissions at the source prevents the entire site from being covered with silica. Without fugitive silica escaping from all the transfer points, there is less silica for trucks and other vehicles to stir up as they drive around. Also, there is silica to be blown around on windy days. Overall respiratory health all over the site is improved.


If you’re looking for a hydraulic fracturing silica solution, the CMAXX is the patented, unique solution for almost any piece of sand-moving equipment. With enforcement of OSHA’s new silica law coming up next year, now is a great time to start thinking about an investment that’s going to control silica exposure at the source.





Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is a process used to extract oil and gas by high-pressure fracturing of rock or shale. Exposure to respirable crystalline silica is a major hazard in this industry. Massive amounts of sand are used in the process, and silica exposure is a constant issue.

NIOSH has identified silica exposure as the single biggest health issue in hydraulic fracturing. Their research also demonstrated that silica levels on these sites are so high that standard respirators are not sufficient for protection. With a 2018 deadline for hydraulic fracturing sites to comply with new OSHA limits for silica exposure, new tactics for silica dust control are needed.




The hydraulic fracking industry uses huge amounts of sand (silica). Most grains are 2 mm or smaller in size. By some estimates, the average site requires somewhere between 1 and 7 million pounds of sand over its lifetime.

After high-pressure water and chemicals are pumped into the rocks to create fractures, the spaces must be filled with sand to keep them open and allow oil and gas to flow. So much sand is used in this industry that mining and production of “frac sand” has become a major industry of its own.


FRAC sand production chart in the United States

(Frac sand production: This chart illustrates the spectacular rise in the production of frac sand in the United States. Data from the United States Geological Survey Minerals Yearbook, Silica, 2011)





image: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/OSHA/CDC

Massive amounts of silica move around a hydraulic fracturing site. NIOSH has identified several points in the silica moving process that create the largest amount of silica dust. These areas are:

  • Open hatches on sand movers
  • Through side ports on sand movers during refilling
  • Depositing sand onto transfer belts
  • Sand moving on transfer belts between movers, hoppers, and blenders
  • Blender hoppers that mix sand
  • Accumulated dust stirred up by vehicles driving around the site


NIOSH strongly recommends that engineering controls be put in place to control silica exposure at these points. They emphasize that the silica exposure at these points in the process is so heavy that respirators do not provide enough protection.



In some situations, newer equipment has been designed to minimize silica dust release. In other situations, older equipment can be modified or rebuilt to these designs.

For many companies, especially with the industry still recovering from the severe drop in oil prices several years ago, these expensive modifications aren’t reasonable.

Another option is to install dust collectors directly on the equipment. A collector specially designed for hydraulic fracturing equipment can be fitted on sand movers, transfer belts, and blenders. With these systems installed, the amount of silica dust released is much lower.

Controlling silica release at these points of capture can decrease silica exposure all over the site. With less silica dust escaping, the overall amount of fugitive silica dust around the site is more manageable. This helps with the amount of dust raised by vehicles or wind all over the site.






Lung disease from inhaling sand or rock dust is one of the oldest occupational hazards. The health risks of silica were identified as early as 1700. Silicosis, the incurable lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust, causes hundreds of deaths every year. Other health effects include liver and immune system diseases. After studying the research, OSHA concluded that the current silica exposure limits were too high. A new silica exposure limit needed to be set to protect workers.


Some silica exposure still comes from well-known occupations like stone cutting, mining, and drilling. Abrasive blasting with sand is especially dangerous. However, newer industries have created new sources of exposure. One example of this is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas.  Another example is the popularity of natural and manufactured stone countertops.  All of these industries must achieve compliance with OSHA’s new silica law to keep workers safe.




Silica is one of the most common elements on earth. It makes up a major part of sand, rocks, and all products made from those things, like concrete.

The major health risks of silica happen when it is inhaled into the lungs. Silica that is small enough to be inhaled is called “respirable crystalline silica” in formal OSHA language. Drilling or grinding creates fine silica dust, and sand is already a form of crystalline silica that can become airborne, especially during blasting or fracking operations.

The biggest concern with silica is a disease called silicosis. The American Lung Association warns about the permanent lung damage that happens with this disease.

Silicosis happens when silica dust damages the lining of the tiny air sacs in the lungs. This injury causes scarring and makes it harder for the air sacs to get oxygen into your body.

Acute silicosis can occur within weeks or months of very heavy exposure. In this case, the lungs respond to the injury by swelling up and filling with fluid. This can be very dangerous and make it very hard to breathe.

Chronic silicosis is the most common kind. The swelling and scarring of the lungs happens over years. Symptoms include coughing, chest pain, and sometimes tiredness and weight loss. The scarring can progress to a condition called progressive massive fibrosis, where the lungs become stiff and full of scar tissue. When the disease is severe, people may need oxygen support to be able to breathe. Silicosis can cause death.

The health risks of silica include other deadly conditions. Silica is a known carcinogen, meaning it causes lung cancer. It also makes you more likely to get lung diseases like emphysema, tuberculosis or bronchitis. NIOSH, the research arm of OSHA, reviewed all of the studies on silica exposure and wrote a detailed report on it.




OSHA recommends that the first line of defense is replacing silica with safer materials. This isn’t always an option. Replacement products may be expensive or just not available. Silica is common, cheap, and stable, which makes it hard to replace.

The second line of defense, and usually the best option when possible, is using engineering controls. A popular engineering control is a dust collector. A dust collection system removes silica dust from the work area and captures it safely so it can be reused or disposed of. Just venting the dust out of the work area means that it ends up somewhere else, and that can be a problem.

A dust collector filters silica dust from the air. The dust drops into a hopper for safe handling. The air can be returned to the work area. The system can clean a large area and keep an entire facility free of silica dust.

Dust collectors can also be installed on equipment such as sand trucks or conveyors to control silica dust when moving sand around. This is important in fracking applications.

In situations like construction or drilling, the best solution may be a NIOSH-certified respirator. Because respirators are uncomfortable and difficult to fit correctly, they are not the ideal solution. Sometimes, though, they are the only option. If you must wear a respirator to protect you from the health risks of silica, make sure it is NIOSH-certified for the job you’re doing, and make sure it fits correctly.


In 2016, OSHA issued a new silica dust rule for exposure. Now the clock is ticking for industries to achieve compliance. The construction industry has less than six months to get there. For general industry, you have about a year and a half, which goes by fast when it comes to getting into compliance with an OSHA regulation.


The silica dust rule lowered the exposure limit to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour day. This limit has been recommended by NIOSH and other health groups for decades. It is expected to save many lives by preventing silicosis, the lung disease caused by breathing silica dust.

CMAXX Filtration System Silica Dust Rule

This CMAXX Dust Collector was installed on a conveyor line to collect dust and protect employees and the environment.


The construction industry is required to be in compliance by June 23, 2017. For general industry, the deadline is June 23, 2018.


This is also the deadline for most fracking processes, although they will have extra time to work out engineering controls. This extended deadline for engineering controls, such as dust collection systems or changes in their processes, exists because OSHA considers these methods to be the best and most effective.


Considering that OSHA had been issuing fines and strongly enforcing the previous silica dust rule, it should be expected that they will enforce the new rule as well. If you were near or above the limit before, you’re going to be drastically over the limit now unless you take steps to control silica dust exposure.


It’s easy to look at June 2018 as being a long way away, especially when you have more urgent challenges to deal with right now. However, getting into compliance with the silica dust rule may take time. Engineering controls, such as dust collectors, often require researching products and taking bids. Once a product is chosen, there’s the timeline for building and installing your system. There is also the time required to run the system, work out the bugs, and make sure your silica dust levels are now under control.



The construction industry will get hit with the new limits first, so it’s expected to be a major target for enforcement. However, there are a lot of activities that fall under general industry and get hit in 2018. These include:

  • Clay, brick, and concrete production
  • Foundries and refractories
  • Landscaping and renovating
  • Stone products (including natural and artificial stone for countertops and other surfaces)
  • Abrasive blasting (in manufacturing and on construction or renovation sites)
  • Hydraulic fracking



A dust collection system like the CMAXX, BRF Baghouse, or SHADOW will be most effective in applications like foundries, stone and clay manufacturing processes, and abrasive blasting. For these applications, a dust collector may be the best way to achieve compliance with the silica dust rule.


One area that is expected to be a major target for OSHA is the hydraulic fracking industry. This is a relatively new industry, and massive amounts of silica are moved around these sites every day. Imperial Systems has unique solutions for the fracking industry, especially for sand-moving equipment and vehicles. This industry faces particular challenges in reaching compliance with the new silica dust rule.






CMAXX filtration system managing weld smoke

The CMAXX for managing weld smoke on display at FABTECH 2017. This install is showing an ambient filtration method.

Managing weld smoke risks means dealing with very small particle size, toxic metals, and the combustibility of metal dust. Weld smoke and fumes are different from other types of dust, and a system needs to be designed to deal with it. A CMAXXTM dust and fume collection system will meet any metalworking or weld smoke control needs.




One of the risks of weld smoke is hexavalent chromium. This compound can cause skin sores and lung damage, and cancer of the lungs, kidneys, and other organs. Many metals are alloyed with chromium to make them corrosion resistant.


Most of the particles in welding fumes come from the welding wire, but some of them come from the material being welded. Some of them can cause allergic reactions and an immune response called “metal fume fever”. Lead and manganese can damage the brain. Others, like hexavalent chromium and nickel, are known carcinogens and increase your risk of cancer.


The particles that are put into the air as fumes from welding are extremely small. Most are smaller than one micron. This means they are small enough to get inside human cells and cause damage. This also means that welding fumes are lighter than air, especially when heated. A system for collecting these fumes must be designed to handle very small particles.




Welding produces metal dust and gases that may be combustible. Some metals, such as aluminum, are very explosive as a dust. Almost all metal dusts have the potential to explode. Handling welding fumes means using appropriate fire suppression and prevention measures.


Spark Arrestor - Spark Trap

Spark Arrestor also commonly refereed to as a Spark Trap is being installed in a maintenance weld shop

Suppressing sparks to keep them from getting into the collector can help prevent explosions from welding smoke dust. Spark Arrestors are important in keeping most sparks from getting to the collector. An explosion isolation valve can prevent a fire from traveling back through the ductwork. Chemical control systems can suppress or extinguish a flame, but only certain chemicals are approved for fires involving metal dust.


Filters can also be important for fire suppression in a welding smoke system. Filters with a fire-retardant coating they will resist burning and help control a deflagration. Some collectors are designed with filters that help isolate an explosion and keep it from causing damage inside the workplace. DeltaMAXXTM filters with fire-retardant coating will prevent a fire from occurring inside a dust collector.



Figuring out what type of fume extraction system to use in your facility is an important decision for managing the risks from weld smoke. Our systems engineers will consult with you to help you determine the best way to manage your weld smoke risk.

Portable fume collector for managing weld smoke

Shadow portable weld fume collector at FABTECH 2017. Designed for managing weld smoke

If there are not very many welders and they don’t always work at the same place, portable collectors can be a solution. They can be useful for handling point of source capture. An ambient system is designed to move a volume of air out of a large area and through filters.


For managing weld smoke, portable collectors can be easily moved around, but they are not as powerful as a larger collector. Central collectors are the most efficient for large areas, but if they are inside they take up floor space. Locating the collector outside is usually recommended for safe explosion venting.


One of the biggest advantages with an ambient system that recirculates the air back into the facility is energy cost savings. When heated or air-conditioned air is vented outside, the energy used is lost. Many businesses find that a fume collection system can pay for itself within two years with money saved in energy costs.


CMAXXTM dust and fume collectors have proven themselves in the welding and metalworking fields. Our newest product, the SHADOWTM portable collector, gives you even more options for managing weld smoke . DeltaMAXXTM nanofiber filters are the best available material for capturing metal fumes. At Imperial Systems Inc., we are committed to helping you control your weld smoke risks.

(as seen in The Fabricator Magazine)



You know we manufacture our DeltaMAXXTM filters for our own dust collectors.  If you’re looking for replacement dust collector filters and you own a collector made by another manufacturer, you should know that some of our top selling filters are replacements for the other guys’ OEM filters!



Basically, a cartridge filter is a cartridge filter. There’s nothing magical or special that makes one company’s filters superior. As with any product, there are different levels of quality. Choosing a manufacturer who makes a quality product instead of junk is always going to be important.

So let’s assume that most of the big-name OEM companies, like Donaldson Torit, Robovent, and Camfil Farr, make a quality filter. You own one of their collectors, and you’re putting their filters in it. Why would you think about switching?


Here are three good reasons:

  • Isn’t that always the best reason? Our replacement dust collector filters are guaranteed to perform as well as, or better than, your OEM filters. And almost everyone who comes to us for replacements finds that our prices are better.
  • NO GIMMICKS. We don’t play games with filter gimmicks. Drug companies that keep releasing “new and improved” versions of the same medication so they can keep their patents. Some OEMs try to do the same thing. Weird new shapes, cool-looking inserts, special new gaskets. Do you really need any of them? Probably not.
  • Getting a good price doesn’t help if the filters aren’t as good. That’s why our guarantee promises you that while we’re beating your OEM’s price, you’re not sacrificing filter quality.


If you’re looking for replacement dust collector filters, it’s worth your time to get a quote from us.


We make replacement dust collector filters for almost all manufacturers, including:

  • Donaldson Torit
  • Camfil Farr

    various different fume and dust collector filter options

    Filters come in many shapes and sizes. These are a few of those replacement options

  • Robovent
  • Clean Air America
  • TDC
  • Lincoln Electric
  • Mac
  • Chemco
  • Nordson
  • Environmental
  • Micro-Air
  • Many others… just call us and ask!



It’s easy to get a quote from us on filters made by most other manufacturers. Our specialized cross-matching system will match the part number you usually order with the right filter.

Don’t have a part number? We can still help you. Call us or send an email, and we’ll talk you through the measurements we need to get you a match.


Replacement dust collector filters for Donaldson Torit Filters

Replace dust collector filters for Donaldson Torit round and oval cartridge filters


Sometimes the wrong kind of filter won’t work for some applications. For example, if you have moisture damaging your filters, you may need a spunbond material that can resist water. If you’ve experienced a fire in your dust collector, it’s definitely worth investing in some fire-retardant filters. If your regular 80/20 filters are getting plugged up with dust after only a few months, you might want to try a nanofiber filter that will collect smaller particles.

Whatever problem you might be having, we can help. Talk to a filter expert right now on Live Chat (during normal business hours) or fill out a contact form!


We get a lot of questions about fumes from welding or laser and plasma cutting. People are aware that there are health risks. Many of them have heard about hexavalent chromium. It is a very good reason to be careful when working around plasma fumes, but it’s not the only reason. “Hex chrome” is just one of the hazards involved.



You may have heard that hexavalent chromium, often called hex chrome, is mainly a problem for people working with stainless steel. Stainless steel does contain much more chromium than other types of steel. However, many metals are either alloyed or electroplated with chromium to protect them from corrosion.

Metals don’t usually contain hexavalent chromium. Instead, when the metal is heated to a high temperature, the chromium reacts with oxygen to form compounds. Hexavalent chromium is one of them. This compound, when inhaled, is known to increase the risk of lung cancer and other cancers. When in contact with the skin, it can cause irritation and skin sores.



Other common metals that people may encounter in welding smoke or cutting fumes include iron, copper, zinc, nickel, manganese, aluminum, tin, beryllium, cadmium, lead, and titanium. Most of these can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. Others, like cadmium, are known cancer-causing agents. Some, such as lead and manganese, damage your nerves and brain. Beryllium can cause a fatal lung disease. Components of metal fumes can also cause kidney damage.

No metal fume or smoke from cutting or welding is safe to inhale. Even iron, which is not toxic, can accumulate in the lungs and cause long-term damage. The lungs are very sensitive to damage, and welding or cutting produces metal particles small enough to be easily inhaled. Whether it’s referred to as fumes, smoke, gases, or dust, it’s an airborne cloud of tiny particles that can make their way deep into your lungs. They can be as small as 0.3 microns, which is 250 times smaller than a human hair and about 15 times smaller than a red blood cell.

Other metals, including nickel, zinc, and copper, cause “metal fume fever”, a flu-like response to chemicals released by damaged cells in the lungs. The symptoms resemble the flu, with headaches, fever and chills, muscle aches, and coughing. Welding is the occupation most likely to result in this condition, but plasma fumes and laser cutting fumes can also cause it.

It’s often reported that drinking milk can help prevent this condition, and many people swear by it. Either way, it doesn’t prevent the long-term lung damage that occurs when metal dust is inhaled. Drinking milk won’t hurt, but avoiding the toxic effects of exposure altogether is a safer bet.



Fortunately, there’s no reason to put your health in danger just to do your job. OSHA regulations set safe exposure levels for almost all metal fumes. They recommend several methods to prevent over-exposure. A CMAXXTM dust and fume collection system (CMAXX Dust and Fume Collector) is efficient and effective. It can reduce or eliminate the need for uncomfortable and often improperly used respirators. Our team can advise you on the best ways to keep people safe when they’re welding or working around laser or plasma cutting.

The CMAXX Connected to an AKS Plasma Table


We hope this information is useful for the people who have asked us questions in the past and who come to us with questions in the future!


If you need more information, please click the CHAT NOW box during normal business hours for immediate help. You can also click HERE to request more information.





Facts about Plasma Cutting and Plasma Technology. Penrose: BOC, n.d. BOC. Web.

Gibson, Hugh. “Plasma Cutting Using A Hand Held Machine.” Plasma Cutting Danger!N.p., 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

Plasma Cutter Safety Guide | Longevity-inc.com.” Plasma Cutter Safety Guide. Longevity-inc.com, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

Sheahan, Kyra. “OSHA Safety Standard for Plasma Dust.” EHow. Demand Media, 28 Nov. 2010. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

Stone, Joe. “OSHA Safety Standard for Plasma Dust.” Work. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

Zlotnicki, Steve. “Does Plasma Cutting Produce Hex Chrome.” Plasma Arc Cutting of Stainless Steel Will Produce Hexavalent Chromium. Esab-cutting, 12 May 2013. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.