The Hidden Dangers of Plasma and Laser Cutting Smoke
Plasma cutting is one of the most popular processes for cutting steel and other metals in many manufacturing shops. It is also a hobby for many metal cutting enthusiasts. Plasma cutting is a thermal cutting process. An inert gas is blown at high speeds through a nozzle, creating an electrical arc that turns some of that gas into plasma. Plasma cuts are some of the finest in the manufacturing industry. Plasma cutting is extremely popular in today’s modern metalworking.
You may have heard of hexavalent chromium, often called hex chrome. It is a serious problem for people working with stainless steel. Many other metals are either alloyed or electroplated with chromium to protect them from corrosion.
When inhaled, hex chrome 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. Hexavalent Chromium is not only produced from plasma and laser cutting. Workers can also be exposed from welding, thermal cutting, and laser cutting.
Other materials that people may encounter in plasma cutting smoke include iron, copper, zinc, nickel, manganese, aluminum, tin, beryllium, cadmium, lead, and titanium. Most of these can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. Some can cause brain and nerve damage, harm your lungs and kidneys, and even cause cancer.
OSHA recommends engineering controls, including dust and fume collections systems, as the first line of protection against plasma cutting smoke health hazards. Personal protective equipment is considered the last line of defense and according to OSHA should only be used when ventilation is not an option.
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. Our team can advise you on the best ways to keep people safe when they’re welding or working around laser or plasma cutting.
Imperial Systems manufactures high performing dust and fume collection systems specifically to take on tough laser, plasma, and thermal applications. The ‘CMAXX Laser’ dust and fume extraction system by Imperial Systems is our signature dust and fume collector for fighting tough gases from plasma and laser cutting. The CMAXX Laser is a modular design dust collector that connects directly to the laser or plasma cutting table. Since the CMAXX Laser connects directly to the cutting table, this minimizes the cost by virtually eliminating any ductwork costs.
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