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Zinc or Galvanized Poisoning Symptoms (Metal Fume Fever)

Q. I have been doing Galvanized welding for about 7 years, I have a problem with coughing all the time. So I was told to drink a lot of milk so I do. But I have a question and I can't find the answer anywhere. People have told me that if you do a lot of galvanized welding you will start getting sores on your scalp leaving scars and that the sores or blisters will continue once it has started. If this is true please let me know.

Thanks..

Craig Owens
- Jackson, Ohio


 

Q. I am interested in any info on symptoms, treatment, and length of exposure for galvanized poisoning. I am in the Health and Safety Dept and have several questions posed to me lately and would like to be able to give up to the date responses to the welders.

Thanks,

Janis Mann
- Denham Springs, Louisiana


 

A. Hello all....

Although I've done my share of structural steel and aluminum welding, I recently became employed as a welder with a large firm that utilizes galvanized steel extensively. I was "warned" upfront (pre-hire) concerning the fumes, but was also assured that the effects are short-lived. However, after a few days of the fumes---with little effects noticed---I did some research of my own. The following link to a .pdf file should answer and allay any of your questions/fears. Hope you find it helpful. It not only made ME feel better, but it also helped my wife feel more comfortable about what I do for a living as well.

Keep the spatter down, Shubes

www.sperkoengineering.com/html/articles/WeldingGalvanized.pdf

Steve Shubert
- Monett, Missouri

Welding Zinc Coated Steels


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Q. My husband has been in the construction business all his working life. He recently developed these sores on him that sorta blister up and then are VERY sore and actually ache. He then has to pull seedy looking stuff out of it. GROSS! Once he gets all the seedy things out of it, it goes away, only to reappear in another place. He has them on his forearms and on his face. But if he doesn't get the GROSS stuff out of it, it just gets worse. He's been to doctors and they have treated him for all kinds of stuff. He thought it was concrete poisoning, but doctors are unaware of this. Today he has developed the symptoms of galvanized poisoning again. Anyone else have anything like this?

Crystal Boling
- Geneva, Florida


 

A. Let me preface by saying that we don't know whether some things that are deliberately ingested, and have been studied to death for decades already, are good or bad for us. Yesterday (3/18/04), Dr. Tim Johnson was on Good Morning America relating the results of yet another study on women drinking two alcoholic drinks per day, and how this one now shows a marked increase in breast cancer, but that most doctors feel this is still more than offset by a marked reduction in heart disease. How can we know so very little about something that has been studied so much and for so long, and which can be very carefully controlled and measured -- and expect to know in detail the effects of widely variable things like exposure to zinc fumes?

People here are now talking about "coughing all the time", "sores on the scalp" and "blisters on the face" as "the symptoms of galvanized poisoning". They are saying that "the blisters will continue once it has started"; and they also "have heard about the accumulative effects of welding Galvanized steel". And what I say is that I don't think any of this is demonstrated at all!

I certainly can't claim it's all false or unrelated, but the only thing I have heard about is "metal fume fever", which is described in the article referenced by Mr. Shubert, and the symptoms are short lived. When we start attributing every possible ill that a person who has welded galvanized metal suffers to zinc fumes, it becomes dangerous because these things can be symptoms of totally different illnesses that need review by a doctor.

If you are suffering symptoms that your doctor can't quite identify, I think you should try to set up an appointment with a doctor at a poison control center or a university research center. I believe that if your doctor is not confident of what he is looking at he will gladly help you do so. Stay healthy.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Safety and health in the concrete products industry


THIS MESSAGE IS FOR CRYSTAL FROM GENEVA,FL:THIS SOUNDS LIKE THE SAME THING YOUR HUSBAND HAS

My husband has been doing concrete for the last 7 years and in the last 3 he has developed sores that develop into puss filled knots. It got so bad that one on his knee swelled to the size of 3 softballs and finally after 2 visits to the family doctor. then 1 24 hour trip to the emergency room. in which they admitted him but would not lance his leg to relieve the puss. dismissed him. another trip the following day to another emergency room in which I told the doctor to lance his leg or I would leave him there. they finally did. This was before the 3 trips we made to the dermatologist in which the results came back as staph infection..the antibiotic he was given ($450.00) did not work. It has been an ongoing thing. he has them all over his arms. legs. one on his ear. chin. etc. There has to be something they are using in the concrete that makes me wonder if eventually this will cause homeowners to have reactions since this is what homes are built with. Kind of like lead and asbestos...? I am at loss on what to do except he change his business but in the meantime other concrete workers are coming up with the same thing. Both of my children have gotten these (weird) since I sleep with him but have never gotten one. So. family doctor. dermatologist. and hospital visits have come up with nothing for a cure. I really think something should be looked into about this since I have noticed when I did research 2 years ago online there was basically nothing and now there are more people coming up with the same stuff in the concrete business. Any info or insight on this is welcomed.

Tracie Fulcher
concrete - Winter Park, Florida


Hi, Tracie. I easily believe that your husband's sores may be related to concrete work. But two of your children getting such sores because their father works with concrete? That sounds like kind of a reach. What does your doctor say about that theory?

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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My husband has been in the concrete business for 10 years, a few years ago he began developing huge sores on his knees (puss filled and very painful) after being admitted to the hospital we found it is a 'superbug'- MRSA - or staph infection that is very resistant to antibiotics... 2 years ago I developed the same symptoms. We are now colonized with this bug and there are other concrete workers in our area with the same problems... I definitely think the chemicals used in the concrete have a direct link to this. Staph is a natural bacteria on everyone's skin but when your immune system is weakened the staph can really take over, I believe something in the concrete can weaken your immune system so much it is allowing this to spread. look up MRSA or staph infections/concrete poisoning. Good luck all!

Crystal Martinez
- Derby, Kansas


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Q. I WELD GALVANIZED TO HOT ROLL WITH A MINIMAL EXHAUST SYSTEM THAT COVERS HALF THE AREA. I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW SYMPTOMS THAT GALVANIZED POISONING WOULD CAUSE.

JOSEPH GEIGER
WELDING - FT. LAUDERDALE, Florida


April 9, 2009

A. To my knowledge and belief the symptoms are flu-like, Joseph. But you should not be inhaling weld smoke whether the metal is galvanized or not.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. My name is Jason Nolfi and I have been a welder for 15+ years. I weld stainless, iron, aluminum and galvanized metals. Over the past 3-4 months I have experienced headaches, coughing and sore throats that are not associated with any cold or flu. I am aware of what is called "fume fever". Can you please let me know more about this and what risks there are from inhaling fumes from galvanized metals. I would like to try to prevent any possible medical problems now if it is not too late. I am only 38 years old, with two sons and want to be here and healthy for them.

Jason Nolfi
welder in sheet metal industry - Glassport, Pennsylvania


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A. Well, what you've seen on this page says that it's not too late and will never be too late because there are no long-term effects. I don't know for sure that that is the case, but the effect of zinc exposure has been pretty well studied, and cold prevention tablets are zinc.

By analogy, though, glass is probably the least toxic material in all of history, you can still get painful shards in your foot, and swallowing a mouthful of shards would probably be fatal. Likewise, inhaling fumes of anything is not good for you, and simply saying that zinc is not cumulatively toxic is not the same thing as saying inhaling welding fumes is okay -- it isn't. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. I have been welding chromed steel, bike rims, car bumpers, other chromed steel into sculpture and furniture for about 5 yrs. I have a welding hood system hat removes most of the fume. I usually wear a N95 type, paper filter mask, NOT a respirator. I am wondering if there is any accumulative effect of the chrome fumes that I am exposed to. I have heard of the accumulative effects of welding Galvanized steel. Is there a similar hazard with welding chromed steel?

Matt Cartwright
- Portland, Oregon


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Q. My chest hurts and back also from welding galvanized steel/do I have the choice to refuse this part of my job since it is affecting my health. If anyone knows the answer would I still be able to keep my job just because of refusal of something that is affecting my health. Not so easy to just go out and find a new job, thanks for any input you have,John

John Over
Welder - Wooster, Ohio


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A. Although you'd need to speak to a lawyer, laws attempt to create fairness. I'd expect that your employer would try to accommodate you, John, but it would depend on the reasonableness of your refusal. For example, if your job is to go to computer installations that require extensive prep work for your visit, and then you refuse to do the work 75 percent of the time, saying another employee will have to come back another time, any employer would find that untenable :-)

There are other issues like whether you know that welding galvanized steel is causing these backaches or you are only guessing. I'd suggest a visit to the doctor first and then a lawyer if you are afraid it might cost your job. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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I was recently welding a couple of bits of galvo. The day went grand and though I had sufficient ventilation I felt later on that I was getting the shakes. This was followed by other recent illnesses reoccurring. Such as aneurysms, back pain, severe vomiting and sore feet and diarrhea. After a six pack of Dutch gold and small helping of cocaine I thought the symptoms would go away. They didn't. I awoke the next morning to even more vomiting, a headache, which could only be described of as if I had a hangover, and red eyes. It was the day after Halloween and I was late for work as a result. What should I do? Skips.

Deco Kane
- Vancouver, BC, Canada


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You should keep your day job, Deco.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 23, 2008

what are the effects of galvanized poisoning

Lesley Cathcart
- Haledon, New Jersey


October 24, 2008

Hi, Lesley. Can you please phrase your question in terms of what has already been said? Continuously starting over means we can't move forward :-)

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 2, 2009

Beware for those of you who are experiencing metal fume shakes or galvanized poisoning. This is a very fast moving and highly unrecognized condition. If you are exposed to toxic levels and do not die as a result, the blood test for zinc poisoning must be taken within 24 hrs. After 24 hrs, your body will eliminate the excess zinc. Zinc poisoning has similar properties as arsenic poisoning because of its position in the periodic table.

There are only about 50 reported or recognized cases per year in the US, as such, most doctors have never seen this condition and don't know what it is. Symptoms include, severe vomiting, metallic taste in mouth, pulmonary edema and increased blood clotting. The pulmonary edema is likely caused by the embedding of highly ionic metal fragments into the lining of the lungs. The increased clotting factor is likely caused by the reduction of copper in the blood.

Treatment involves: fresh air, oxygen, IV's, anti-emetic drugs and close observation by medical personnel.

Once an individual has developed symptoms of heavy metal poisoning, their resistance to reoccurrence of the condition is greatly reduced. The only prevention is proper ventilation and a clean air supply.

Willis Seyfried
- Soda Springs, Idaho


February 3, 2009

Hi, Willis. Can you cite any medical journal article that can give further info on what you are talking about? Although I certainly don't want to underplay metal fume fever, your statement that "if you are exposed to toxic levels and do not die as a result" is alarmist. Is there a record of a single person dying from zinc fume fever, since you are clearly implying that they often do?

I concur completely with your closing sentence -- people should not be getting metal fume fever because they should not be breathing welding fumes.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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April 8, 2009

Q. I am a fabricator's helper in a Steel shop. I would like to know if the particles from Grinding on Galvanized steel could Cause galvanized poisoning. How long after exposure will symptoms occur (from the fumes). I would also like to know the lighter symptoms. I am asking this question because I have been told it can KILL you, which to me isn't quite so settling. I have had stomach aches when working with galvanized material, but I am not sure if it was just being nervous or if it was from the fumes. I wear a 3M respirator, like a dust mask. Will that always help me/ prevent galv. poison. I am open to all answers, but need facts. Thanks to all who reply.

JD Matheny
- LaPlace, Louisiana


April 9, 2009

A. The boiling point of zinc is 907 deg. C, 1664 deg. F, so I doubt that there are any substantial zinc fumes from grinding, JD. But people should wear a respirator when grinding or sanding anything, even wood or paint. Nothing but clean air and specialized medicines should be inhaled.

I think the respirator should be fine, but your company should have a respirator training program, not just throw a respirator your way -- I think the training is required by OSHA.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 30, 2009

Q. I've read all the above posts. A few weeks ago I was welding some sculptures (I make robots from used car parts). I hit some galvanized pretty heavy, my exhaust fan is ALWAYS running when I work (in my cellar workshop). Ever since then, I have had a lot of phlegm in my lungs and I seem to be sweating profusely whenever the ambient temps go up or if I am under a bright light. None of my symptoms seem to be listed for MFF, but I don't know what else to say. My wife and family are concerned, they are also saying that I am being moody lately (I disagree).

I appreciate your help and this wonderful resource here.

Sage Werbock
- Phila. area, Pennsylvania


June 1, 2009

A. Hi, Sage. I understand that metal fume fever is typically a one or two day affair. So it doesn't sound like that's your problem. But this is just book knowledge. I think you should see a doctor.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 8, 2009

Q. My name is Trysha. My Fiance has been an Ironworker for the past 11 years, he is generally a connector, but for the past several months he has been welding. Today he came home with a pretty bad case of galvanized poisoning. I was wondering if there is anything I can do for him. Are there any home remedies?

Trysha Baker
fiance to an ironworker - Jerome, Idaho


June 9, 2009

A. Hi, Trysha. By the time you see this he'll already be better. The thing to learn is to not allow himself to be exposed to zinc welding fumes. It's 2009 and I don't think people should be breathing welding fumes anymore. Best wishes.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 24, 2009

My son never comes home sick from work. On the 21st of sept he had been at work about 4 hrs when he experienced severe headache vomiting extreme pain in eyes his blood pressure was up to 224 over 104; he was doing a job that he doesn't usually do. He was melting galvanized pipe. We ended up in ER with concerns for blood pressure being uppermost at this point. We did mention the fact that he had been working with galvanized melting they took a lot of blood but am not sure if they checked for poisoning. we do have follow up with cardio spec . thank you for your web site or I wouldn't have known about the chance of poisoning.

sincerely

reba gryder
a concerned mother - Katy, Texas


September 6, 2010

Q. I've been heating up galvanized pipes for a new job to about 600F and breathing that in. someone told me this might not be good? I'm not welding just heating it up to about 600f. but there is no ventilation in the shop. is this going to effect me over time?

timothy Kaese
shop employee - Santa Cruz

September 9, 2010

A. Hi, Timothy.

As mentioned before, I personally doubt that zinc fumes have long term effects, but don't know. 600 F should not be a high enough temperature for significant vaporization. Most flue pipes for water heaters, furnaces, etc, are galvanized.

But everything is relative and I'm not getting a good enough picture of what you are involved with when you say you are "heating up galvanized pipes" to have much to say about your exposure situation. You should probably be wearing some sort of respirator/dust mask and there probably should be some ventilation for whatever it is that you are doing. Do you smell or see any kind of fumes or emission?

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 4, 2011

I have been working with zinc products for the last 17 years. I first started in the foundry, where we would use the zinc to let us know how hot the brass was before we pour it into a mold, zinc turn to an ash like substance at around 1800 degrees. After each pour everything I ate or drink would taste really sweet, if I had a cigarette it tasted like I was smoking sugar. After two years of this I learned I was suffering from zinc poisoning, I never took it serious, because talking with the welders they always told me about zinc poisoning causing vomiting, never had that. I did develop gerds disease and acid reflux during this time. I no longer work in the foundry but now work as a welder. I'm just curious how much zinc the actual welding rod contains, one thing zinc does well is help make the molten metal more fluid.

With that little bit of history, I now suffer from the shakes and headaches all the time. The shakes I say are from low blood sugar, but the doctors don't think so, they also think the headaches are just from stress. But looking at all the symptoms, and zinc being in a lot of foods, and some claim zinc is similar to arsenic poisoning. Once you have the damage from the overdose will the internal damage be ongoing, and will it possibly get worse?

Any information will be greatly appreciated.

wayne perzee
- gulfport, Mississippi, us

January 4, 2012

A very valid point which I don't see demonstrated enough is the use of appropriate masks.

Even if there isn't the option of using a clean air feed, a silicon half face P3 mask is not an expensive item, and would stop the vast majority of fumes. Paper disposable types are no good; may as well wear them as a hat for all the good they'll do fumes.

I use a Sundstrom silicon when I don't have the option to hood up, find it to be very effective.

Don't expect a mask to be the first line of defense however, the mask is the backup. While it's not possible to always work in well ventilated areas, a portable extractor doesn't take long to set up.

A quick note to the concrete enquirers: symptom of the puffy sacs with nodules in them sound like there could be some necrosis of epidermic layer skin from prolonged exposure to lime.

Stay safe people.

Pete Harriss
- Sydney, Australia


October 14, 2012

Q. I was cutting galvanized steel the other day and a piece flew in my eye. What are the effects if I don't go to the doctor?

jay whitt
- hillsboro, ohio, america

October 15, 2012

A. Hi Jay. Although glass is non-toxic, a chip in your eye could blind you, or at least scratch your cornea or cause an infection. It's not a matter of zinc toxicity, it's a matter of physical damage. You should go to the eye doctor.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
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