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Hazards of welding galvanized metal and e-coat primer

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I presently weld a lot of galvanized metal and parts that are primered with e-coat. The company I work for has told me that the smoke and fumes are not very harmful. Can anyone tell me what hazards are associated with welding these materials?

Thank you,

Monty Stark
- Mt. Pleasant, Iowa


++

Your company is full of it... welding fumes from galvanized steel are pretty darned toxic, and to be avoided. I can't imagine that any kind of primer would be good for you, either. I'd be a little tweaked if I were you.

Marc Green
anodizer - Boise, Idaho



++

The smoke and fumes from welding any galvanized product may be harmful. Merely reference the material safety data sheet (MSDS)for the product you are welding. It will tell you fumes are dangerous and safety precautions must be taken. All steel products have a specific MSDS. Your company should have a Hazardous Communication Program and a master list of MSDS sheets. They are available, free of charge, from any steel supplier.

Terry T. Magyar
- Gahanna, Ohio


+++

I'm considering using 1-1/2 inch schedule 40 galvanized pipe for the exhaust system on a Kohler generator. The exhaust may reach temperatures of 1000 degrees F. The exhaust pipe will discharge to the outside of the building. Will there be a danger to persons inside the building from flumes baking out of the galvanized piping?

George Varshock
- Tecate, California


++++

When welding on galvanized steel, you have to ventilate or be in an open area. The fumes released from the zinc coating are very toxic, do not stand over your work. Best results come with use of a small ventilation blower reversed to suck away the contaminants just above the work. Wear a acid/gas respirator whenever you weld or cut anything in an enclosed space, and ventilate to remove the Carbon Monoxide. Watch where you are sending the exhaust!

Better shield that exhaust pipe and keep the exposed temperature low to prevent burn and fire hazards. Stainless is probably a better choice for this application due to the corrosion problems with exhaust gases. At those temperatures the galvanizing will not hold up and you will get pin-holes years down the road. If you run it inside a bigger pipe for insulation you will avoid the leakage worry. Don't pipe it out at a level where people will be exposed to the exhaust and you will be fine outside.

Joel Gerhard
mining - Fort Myers, Florida


++++++

Contrary to popular belief the fumes created when welding galvanized steel are both non-toxic and non carcinogenic. Yes they will make you sick if you are careless but not in a permanent way. Check out the real research at www.sperkoengineering.com/html/articles/WeldingGalvanized.pdf .

Dave Heine
- Fullerton, California


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I am cutting metal studs that are galvanized with no ppe, am I in danger of any future illnesses!

Josh Ramage
construction - Bakersfield, California


++++++

As the man said, there is no evidence of long term problems. But assuming you are cutting the studs with a saw and not a torch, it wouldn't seem that there would be any concerns even in the short term.

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


+++++++

The Sperko site also goes into detail of how lead is used, along with a couple of other deadly materials, in the kettles that are utilized in the steel galvanizing process. These dangerous materials are also released under the welders hood, and are to be avoided at all cost. Not to mention the primers that are often found under the zinc galvanizing itself. And, I say, that if the galvanizing is going to give me bad flu like symptoms for 48 hours, it isn't acceptable. It also makes you very irritable, which is non-productive for anyone who has co-workers around them.

I believe that most people who tell others that galvanized steel is safe to weld, and 'won't hurt you', aren't the ones that have actually been welding it. Possibly they have studied it, manage it or maybe stand and watch others weld it, but no one should weld this without proper ventilation, respirators or smoke suckers. Taking zinc in a vitamin and breathing it into your lungs are two entirely different animals. OSHA and MSHA are both very specific in their regs about welding or burning zinc or lead.

Lee Butcher
- Park Hills, Missouri


+++++++

I work for a construction company as a welder. I build iron fencing and all sorts of other stuff.. We normally build wood gate frames out of 1 1/2" galvanized metal. Lately we have been making frames and plate posts, etc. for [name of major sporting event deleted by editor] out of galvanized tubing. Our shop has no ventilation system in it and we can't take our work outside. We can only use like 1 fan to try and circulate the air through our shop. Welding the galvanized 9-10 hours a day with no respirators and ventilation makes it pretty much impossible to not inhale the fumes. The past 2 weeks or so I've been coming home from work sicker than a dog from breathing in so much of the fumes. Today was the worst its ever been, since I've gotten home I've been puking my guts out.

I'm about fed up with welding this garbage.. Would contacting OSHA do me any good? What should I do?

[inquirer's name deleted by editor]
Welder - Oregon, United States


+++++++

Lee, I haven't seen anyone here or anywhere say in writing that inhaling welding fumes isn't bad for you! What you will see in other letters on this site is some reassurance offered to ill people and their panic-stricken spouses that the symptoms of metal fume fever will pass and that there is apparently no evidence of cancer or other chronic illness, so they do not need to be in despair; but they should see their doctor. That certainly does not mean that repeating the inhalation of these zinc fumes is acceptable. It absolutely isn't.

[inquirer's name deleted by editor], there is no doubt that you need proper welding hoods and better ventilation. If your employer will not supply them, yes, it may be worthwhile to contact a OSHA Hotline. Remember that contracts for jobs like these are often awarded to the low bidder. If your company was able to be low bidder by leaving out the cost of proper ventilation and worker safety standards, it is terribly unfair to everyone, and it would be right if the whistle was blown even if you didn't feel poorly.

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

May 7, 2008

Hi, my name is Jennifer and I live in Georgia. I am very concerned about this matter because my husband is a welder. He started working for this company and they told him that it was ok to weld 16 gauge galvanize metal and I am not sure about that. I have concerns about this matter.

Jennifer Martinez
- Winder, Georgia


May , 2008

Hi, Jennifer. Sorry, but it isn't clear to me whether your husband came home sick. If he came home sick, it isn't acceptable regardless of how short term the problem may be. If he's not coming home sick, there is no problem either short-term or long-term.

What is necessary is that he be adequately protected from welding fumes. To expect that a welder should never have to handle something that is galvanized is unrealistic. It's like being a dental hygienist and wanting assurance that you'll never have to serve an AIDS patient, or being a cop and saying that you won't arrest guys over 220 pounds. People, including your husband, have to do their jobs -- but they have to receive the right training and have all the right equipment to do it safely. Good luck.

Regards,

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


Proper documentation in your medical records

July 6, 2008

I have read the least to the worst case scenarios for welders who are welding on galvanized materials, those with zinc plating which also has primers and possibly lead. I was a welder in the Air Force before I cross-trained into the safety career. I experienced headaches and nausea from my short term exposure on several occasions. When I retire from the Air Force I will ensure my medical records have all of my exposures in them. I hope that all of the people who have testified to their severe and even minimal but constant exposure are having their personal medical records properly documented. To do this it will be necessary to cite the MSDS for the metals welded on.

Mike Cantos
student - Edwards, California


July , 2008

Hi, Mike. Thanks for that really important followup on this thread! I don't believe in ambulance chasing, and I don't believe in concentrating too hard on how you feel -- because you'll always feel lousy if you do :-)

But if time does eventually determine that there are long term effects from such exposures, it is vitally important to be know the facts about yourself and not have to rely on a sketchy memory.

Regards,

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

July 12, 2008

I can only say, for welding on any surface, galvanized, metalized, painted, chromalloy, powder-coated or primered, it is important to recognize that any or all materials being used during the welding process only exacerbates and accelerates the exposure of said heavy metals. For instance, using a GMAW application running 0.035 wire @ 160A has a greater HAZ (heat-affected zone) than an application requiring 0.028 wire @ 130A. also, using an SMAW 1/4" electrode @ 140A has a greater HAZ than a 1/16" rod @ 110. Point being, there is always an exposure to heavy metals in the atmosphere because of welding temperature and the complexity of metallurgy. Combining that with the amount of ventilation available and the amount necessary to safely complete a weld, it becomes clear to the employer, as well as the employee, of the risks involved in using any welding application for a hazardous or noxious material. It is unimportant to the employer to fully inform his workers of any danger they may have while doing the work. This is true mainly because the owner/employer of a company will NOT likely have any welding background or experience, and is only interested in his production value and his profit. what employers do NOT realize is how easily the human body can be affected by hazardous materials without being aware of the exposure. Most vapors produced by welding are invisible to the naked eye, and those are the vapors that are as harmful, if not more so, than the cloud of smoke a welder sees. so remember, if you see the smoke rising above you after the weld was done, you must use a fan or other ventilation to move the INVISIBLE gases away from your area. equally important is where those fumes travel in a crowded shop. watch the welder around you to ensure proper ventilation of their fumes as well as your fumes in relation to other workers. many welders are aware of the short-term health risks involved with the welding industry. yet the employers should know as much, if not more, about the welding process that involves any worker and hazardous material. if your boss hasn't had a clue about INVISIBLE FUMES, it is time to limit your exposure in that field, and to consider different work. its better to work for free and live than die by the dollar. nothing is worth poor health.

Kevin Person
- Costa Mesa, California


September 4, 2008

I live in the Phoenix area and am looking for a welder to weld galvanized steel to non-galvanized steel. Any suggestions? I'd appreciate any info you can share to help find a source. Thank you.

Mindy Gillen
- Mesa, Arizona


September 9, 2008

Hi, Mindy. Even in the age of the internet and a world economy, some things are best found in the local yellow pages. I see 11 listings for welding in Mesa and 30 in Phoenix. Good luck.

Regards,

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

November 3, 2008

I am a welder in a small welding shop. A lot of the material that I am welding has been stored outside in the elements from anywhere between 6 months to 10 years. With the oxidization of older material are there any hazards that I should be aware of? My employer gave me a mask that anyone might wear in order to sand drywall as a precaution to weld galvanized steel in a shed with the 20' garage door open. What proper environment should I be working under in order to weld these materials?

Scott Maxwell
welder - Phelpston, Ontario, Canada


November 2008

Hi, Scott. The operative question is whether the material is galvanized because that can give you metal fume fever. Whether the steel is rusted/oxidized or not shouldn't be a safety issue.

However, a point to remember is that inhaling any fumes or particles is bad for you. A painter's mask is better than nothing, but it is not proper protection if there is not good ventilation. If you can see that you are working in welding smoke and inhaling it, I don't think a painter's mask is good enough. At the least, set up a fan and make sure you're not inhaling smoke. This advice is only based on common sense; I don't know if there are worker safety codes that apply to this job in your area.

Regards,

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

February 25, 2009

My husband cuts and welds galvanized steel at his home workshop, which is open air, and only 50 feet from our home and garden. I feel ill when the wind brings the fumes in my direction, and I wonder if our food plants are absorbing heavy metals. Do I have reason to worry?

Amy Gustin
artist - Redway, California


February 26, 2009

Hi, Amy. You should not be inhaling zinc fumes, but I don't think they'll bother your food plants.

Regards,

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

March 5, 2009

While we know the hazards of welding galvanized and avoid it at all costs we are looking at a project that will require machining galvanized plate. The temperature of the metal chips could be in the 500 - 600 F range, with possible dust from the coating. Would any special precautions be needed for this or would ventilation and a dust mask be sufficient for this.

Jim Pratt
Machine shop - Salina, Kansas


May 5, 2009

I've been welding for twenty-six years and had to stop welding in 2007.The reason was A doctor's order. In that time I have welded on all types of steels and alloys steels. And worked on several other types of material, like PVC cpvc, fiberglass as well as many other types of materials and composites. I now have serve work related COPD. I did smoke about a half pack of cigarettes a day. But smoking only made me more susceptible to this disease. I worked in chemical plants,power plants and pharmaceutical plants. And did a great deal of prefabrication at our shop that had NO exhaust or fresh air ventilation. I guess my point is any and all welding fumes, vapors, dust and smoke is not healthy for you unless you use the proper equipment. Now my battle is with my former employer. (When in doubt don't do the work)

Chick Lamont
- Norwich, Connecticut


September 28, 2010

Interesting on seeing both the pro and con on the possible hazards of handling galvanized products, ie; metal studs. I have always informed my students and co-workers of the potential hazards when the simple washing of hands prior to consuming that great ham & cheese on wheat bread sandwich at lunch time. It reminds me of the "Non-Hazard" effects of another chemical process I and others were exposed to forty years ago called,"AGENT ORANGE". I rest my case to ANY "Doubting Thomas's" that think toxins do not have long term effects. Thanks

Paul J. Bowes
- Dallas, Texas U.S.A.

September 28, 2010

Hi, Paul.

Sorry to hear that you were exposed to agent orange, and I largely agree with you, so I hate to argue with you. But never "rest your case" before the other side has presented their case or you'll almost always lose :-)

There are many toxins that don't have long term effects. The best known would be cyanide, which is a very rapid acting, very powerful poison (a chunk the size of a baby aspirin will kill you in seconds). But apples, lima beans, apricots, almonds, and other foods contain cyanide. In fact, it is estimated that 10 pounds of lima beans would comprise a fatal cyanide dose. I love many of those "cyanide foods" and have eaten enough of them over the years to have killed myself many times over if the doses were cumulative, but they're not :-)

Furthermore, zinc is not a "toxin", it is an essential nutrient you can't live without. But that certainly doesn't mean it's okay to inhale huge doses of it; it isn't! And I am not saying that repeatedly coating your lungs with that garbage is harmless; I doubt that it is. Further, those galvanized studs may have chromates, cutting oils, or other materials on them, and people should always wash their hands before eating. Thanks.

Regards,

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

November 16, 2011

Is inert gas welding of metal (w/o any coating yet) harmful to human body?

Wayne Eng
Production - Asia

January 30, 2012

Q. I was a welder of 22 years and osteoarthritis took my career away. I am a woman and I loved welding. To me I felt like I was sewing. But when I had to work with galvanized. Ha.
You can tell if it is galvanized or not by the green plumes of smoke that you create. You HAVE to have open space and free ventilation or you will get sick and it is like the flu. However, it is hard to have a fan on you because that will create bubbles in your weld so a mask helps and if it can be done outside with no wind is the best. I have nerve damage and no one can figure it out. It is in my feet like a diabetic but I am not diabetic and my feet always feel numb. I am wondering if all of the carbons that I have had the pleasure of inhaling has anything to do with it?

Sande Smith
- Vancouver

April 14, 2012

A. I weld on galvanized pipe, tubing or plating almost daily. I like to clean the joints to be welded using an angle grinder with a light sanding pad to take off the zinc coating and bring it to bare steel.You will have to spray the finished weld with a cold galvanizing compound anyway. This should greatly reduce harmful toxins and fumes though I'm sure you will still have some. Just my 2 cents

Jeff Graf
- Lancaster, Ohio


June 3, 2012

Q. Hi, I make outdoor woodfired ovens. The oven sits on heatbricks 64 mm thick - the fire is lit directly on the bricks and the oven can reach temperatures of 400° C. The bricks sit on a galvanized tray like a baking tray. No galvanized metal is visible and no indirect contact with the naked flame but the bricks will heat up to 200°+ C. Is that likely to cause harmful smoke to be given off from the tray? Food would be placed in the oven, so I don't want to make anyone ill. Thanks -- danny.

Danny Stew
- London, England


June 4, 2012

A. Hi Danny. Although I doubt that this could create any measurable hazard to the food, a general principle I believe in is that things should not be used for purposes for which they weren't intended, because then we are operating in the dark and without any kind of feedback system in place (no researchers or epidemiologists are at work checking whether people are using galvanized metal in ovens and suffering any consequences).

Baking trays are tin plated, not galvanized. You probably can't find tin-plated baking trays the size that you need, but maybe you could form the trays from thin stainless steel or aluminum? Good luck.

Regards,

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



August 1, 2013

Q. I was welding galvanized metal. During, I got dizzy and sweating lasting about12 hours; is this from the gas and what can I do?

Leonard Womack
- Amarillo, Texas


August 5, 2013

A. After welding galvanized metal 12 to 14 hours I went to the ER still dizzy and dry heaves. They ran test for three days saying that they thought it was my heart; every test came back good. They said that if I would have been poisoned that it would show in the blood test or my lungs. The old trick that I learned from old welder friends was to drink milk. I did this about 8 hrs. after I welded. After the hospital, this is what they told me: you probably did get some poison, the thing to do is to get plenty of fresh air (oxygen), lots of fluids (IV in hospital) and rest. I am doing better but am still weak from being down for several days; age does make it longer hope this helps someone else. Do take safely: first blow fumes away from you.

Leonard Womack [returning]
- Amarillo, Texas


August 6, 2013

A. Leonard, I'm glad to hear you are doing better. Hang in there and get some rest!

blake_kneedler Blake Kneedler
Santa Clara, California
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