Welding Fumes in the Air? Watch for Manganese...

Welding Fumes in the Air? Watch for Manganese…

By Ron-Son’s Torch

 “It’s early Saturday morning and Cicero the bull is standing in   the middle of the train tracks. He’s preparing himself to take on the oncoming freight train. So there he is, pawing the ground, snorting furiously, and trying to look large and terrible. The freight train is   within eyesight and blowing its whistle furiously. And Daisy the cow, whom Cicero is trying to impress, is looking on anxiously. Finally she can’t take it anymore, she has to say something. In a loud high- pitched voice she says, “Cicero, you are the most bravest and strongest bull I’ve ever known! But, it’s your wisdom I’m always worrying about. ”

Welding fumes are one of the things that have drawn the attention of occupational safety administrators (lawyers, too but for other reasons). The scenario goes something like this: an electrode is subjected to such intense heat that a solid becomes a liquid and a gas. And if there are chemicals on the welded material, there’s a good chance it too will turn into   a gas. Now we have this witches’ brew twirling up into the atmosphere with all sorts of things within it.


One of the things found in welding fumes is manganese. Manganese is essential to the human body. We store it in our bones, kidneys and liver. But prolonged exposure to high concentrations may lead to health problems.

The questions arise: should we worry about this? Do we just worry about the welder? Or do we need to be concerned about those who work in the same area and are breathing some of this air? And by inhaling, is it bypassing the body’s normal defence mechanisms?


One of the things found in welding fumes is manganese. Manganese is essential to the human body. We store it in our bones, kidneys and liver. But prolonged exposure to high concentrations may lead to health problems.

The results of high exposure can be a Parkinson’s-Disease-like symptom known as Manganism. And the list is disturbing: cognitive impairment, headaches, tremors, muscle rigidity, balance problems, slow/clumsy movements, fatigue, muscle soreness, loss of coordination, and mental/emotional disturbances.

The issue being examined by authorities is, “Does the level of exposure need to be further reduced? How do you measure for such things?“

Do We Need to Be Concerned?

There are allowable limits to the level of manganese that must be adhered to. The concern is that these levels are too low. But without more studying and testing, they aren’t able to make definite recommendations. So, right now it’s one of those things to be aware of.

Can We Do Anything to Mitigate the Risk?

One thing that always works is creating an atmosphere that unsafe work practices are discouraged, even if it impedes (gasp) production. Workers need to believe everyone can benefit from a safe and healthy work environment.

If absolutely necessary, change the method of welding. When tests were done measuring the level of manganese, some methods of welding produced more fumes than others.

Flux core arc welding produced the most fumes and TIG welding the least. We know these two methods are completely different and substitution is probably not going to work. So then you need to be looking at ways to control the fumes.

There are several ways to control welding fumes. One is making sure there is good ventilation. When poor ventilation doesn’t exist, then it has to be created.

Something must draw out the fumes from their breathing zone and deposited out of harms way.



Fume extractors are also good at drawing the fumes and filtering them so the problem doesn’t get pushed down the line.

The trick with fume extractors is to make sure the equipment is easy to use and doesn’t affect the welder’s production.

The replacement for fume extractors is welding respirators. One drawback with respirators is that they can be uncomfortable – which leads to being discarded and affecting productivity.

Another way is reduce the welder’s total exposure to welding fumes. The crude way of expressing it is the welder isn’t there all day welding. You   are trying to keep his total exposure for the day down. This is done by rotating employees or working on something else.


Lastly, try finding a suitable replacement product. Hobart has introduced a new flux core welding wire called Element that has low manganese levels. They are confident it can help meet any stringent environmental   regulations plus give good operability and meet productivity   demands.

If we can help you or need more information, feel free to give us a call!


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