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Welding Fumes: Your Toenails Hold Clues

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Welding Fumes: Your Toenails Hold Clues

WELDING FUMES MEET “CSI”: WHY SCIENTISTS ARE COLLECTING WELDERS’ TOENAILS

A group of researchers interested in exposure to metals in welding fumes come to your workplace to collect samples. You might think they’d be there to test the air quality or to take samples of fumes or dust. These researchers didn’t come to do any of those things. The only equipment they bring with them: paper envelopes and toenail clippers.

That’s right… these researchers are here for your toenails.

That’s how researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (Grashow et al, 2014) studied the long-term exposure to toxic metals in weld fumes in a group of welders in Massachusetts. The welders provided several toenail samples over a period of time, and the clippings were analyzed.

Some forensics television shows have investigators acquire a  hair sample and test it for poison. This works because many things that get into our bloodstream, including metals, are deposited in our hair and fingernails as they grow.  The researchers chose toenails because they grow more slowly and give a record that covers a longer period of exposure.

welding fumes

So what did they find?

Even among workers who wore respirators, researchers were able to detect lead, manganese, cadmium, nickel, and arsenic. Lead is a well-known health hazard, and you probably don’t need to be told that arsenic isn’t a good thing either. Long-term exposure to manganese is associated with central nervous system problems that can mimic Parkinson’s disease. Cadmium is known to cause cancer, and nickel can cause skin problems and lung irritation.

Respirators are a key part of controlling exposure to welding fumes. These welders, though, were still exposed to enough of these metals that it could be found in their toenails. While it wasn’t within the scope of this research study to determine exactly how workers were exposed, one possibility is that respirators may be worn while welding, but not while doing other work around the shop in places where dust from cutting and welding may have accumulated.

A dust collection system that removes welding fumes and dust from the air completely will prevent  toxic metal particles from accumulating in your work areas. Respirators may prevent inhalation during welding, but if the weld fumes aren’t being removed from the air, workers can still be exposed to it. A system that keeps the air clean for your entire facility doesn’t just protect workers while they’re wearing respirators. It protects all of your workers, all of the time.

 

Grashow, R. et al (2014). Toenail metal concentration as a biomarker of occupational welding fume exposure. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 11, 397-405.

DeltaMAXX Dust Collector Cartridge Filters Exceed Expectations at Welding Technology Program

About the School: Located in northern Texas, the Community College offers comprehensive two-year educational programs – including welding technology. The school offers Associate of Art, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science Degrees.

Challenge: The Welding Technology Program was interested in more cost effective cartridge filters for their Lincoln Statiflex 6000 dust collector.

Solution: In the summer of 2013, while making daily cold calls to businesses in the industrial realm, the Imperial Systems aftermarket member was able to strike a sale with the community college. While talking with the instructor of the Welding Technology Program, the aftermarket member found out that the school was shopping around for replacement dust collector cartridge filters for the upcoming school year. Due to the budget, it was a top priority that the filters were cost effective and reliable.

After reviewing the DeltaMAXX filter literature and cross-referencing the filters on Imperial System’s website, the welding technology instructor pulled the trigger and purchased four DeltaMAXX Replacement Cartridge filters for the upcoming school year.

Outcome: After running the filters in the dust collector for the fall semester, the welding school instructor was “really impressed” with the DeltaMAXX Replacement Dust Collector Filters.

“The System is running very smooth, not much back blow. When turning on the dust collector in the past we have had problems with smoke blowing out of the back. That problem went away when we installed the DeltaMAXX filters”, said the Texas welding school instructor.

“Imperial Systems’ dust collector filters are very durable and they are lasting much longer for us. My expectations were exceeded and you can count on us to be a returning customer.”

dust collector filters