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Galvanize Poisoning?

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My husband worked with galvanize tubing a few years ago, during this time he got galvanize poisoning. I would like to know the long term effects of this.

Thank you,

Louise Williams
- Sumner, Texas


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I don't know what 'worked with' means, Louise. 'Galvanized' means that the article has been dipped in molten zinc. Thousands of things are galvanized, from garbage cans to pole hardware for electric transmission lines. Lots of things are made from galvanized tubing, including children's swing sets. Zinc is not considered an especially toxic material. To the contrary, zinc is an essential nutrient.

However, if he was welding galvanized tubing without an adequate air supply or filtration, he could have inhaled zinc fumes and come down with 'zinc fume fever'. I am told that zinc oxide is non-toxic and this illness is a short term thing whose symptoms resemble the flu -- but look up 'fume fever' and find some more references. Your doctor can presumably tell you more about fume fever than I can.

Good luck, and don't worry.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


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My husband welds on galvanized steel everyday or just about it. He comes sick every now and then. He was told at his job to drink milk. It usually only lasts for him through the night. When he wakes up in the morning he feels better. I just thought that I would share my experience with you.

Destiny Overstreet
- Jackson, Alabama


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Zinc lozenges are sold to reduce the severity and length of colds. It sounds like he may have gotten lead or chromate poisoning. Some galvanizers use 99.99% pure zinc. So, only 0.01%, or 0.1 mg/g, could be lead (Pb). Some galvanizers use less pure zinc; therefore, the amount of lead could increase. Some galvanizers apply a chromate coating over the zinc. This gives a shiny appearance by sealing the zinc from oxidation (white rust). Chromate is a toxic substance (remember the movie " Erin Brockovich [link is to movie info at Amazon]"?). Either in molten form during the coating process, or when the coated steel is subsequently welded, lead and/or chromate vapors could be inhaled.

If the galvanizer did some welding after the coating process, or there were holidays in the coating, they could have used a zinc-rich paint to to touch up the steel. Some of the best zinc-rich paint is 95% zinc when dried (the rest being binders). Others formulations with less zinc may have lead in them. So if that's the case, and if one didn't wash their hands, like they're supposed to (and as my grandpappy - rest his soul - taught me 45 years ago), one could have poisoned themself - hand to mouth. Does he have symptoms of lead or chromate poisoning? What were the results of the blood tests? Lead builds up in the system and is deposited in the bones. Also, I seem to remember that milk is supposed to help. Hopes this helps you on your sleuthing, part of which might be to get another doctor. If your Doc doesn't do it, go to a hematologist or pathologist and get tests done for "heavy metals" - and any others they recommend.

Mike Osborn
- San Antonio, Texas


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We appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts, Mike, and everyone is certainly welcome to express their beliefs. But metal fume fever / zinc fume fever is caused by zinc, not by lead or chrome, as numerous studies and papers reveal.

Chromate and lead are bad for you, but probably not the cause of that particular illness.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

+++++ --appended to this existing thread by the editor

My boyfriend welds often with galvanized steel. He has come home twice in the past 8 months very sick, cold and can't warm up. Both times, he has worked with galvanized steel he ran a high fever, sweat profusely, ached all over and his body temperature was hotter than I thought anyone could be. He has worked in the field as a steamfitter for over 30 years and I believe his sickness both times has to do with the galvanized steel. Both times he had worked with it...and both times he was extremely sick for 24 hours.

What kind of long term damage does this type of exposure cause him. What is this type of poisoning called. What can be done to prevent it, help him when he is sick and what can be done to correct damage that has already been caused to his system? Also, where are the answers to the posted questions. I have seen similar questions on the subject, but no answers.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Jackie Minzy
Pipe installer - Ledyard, Connecticut


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Hello Jackie. To address your last issue first, any replies that anyone offers are printed after the questions. This is a public forum, and the problem is that some topics are posted so repetitively that, after a reader has invested substantial time in carefully answering the question two or three times, they simply ignore it when people post the same question again. So you may have to sort through some unanswered repeats of the questions to find cases where they were answered. Search the site for 'galvanized poison' and 'metal fume fever'.

It certainly sounds like your boyfriend's problem was caused by welding galvanized material with poor ventilation. His ailment is called 'metal fume fever'. It is not presently considered to have have chronic long-term consequences, but it should not be happening -- and it should not be allowed to happen to him a third time! Much better ventilation is required; a personal air supply may be required if good ventilation can't be achieved in tight corners.

The thing is, he shouldn't be coming home sick at all, and then the issue simply goes away instead of you having to believe that it has no long term effects.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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I want to know if there is anything that I can do to help the healing of this poisoning? My husband has had this galvanize poisoning going on his fifth day, and still has a lot of pain! what should I do?
thank you,

Donna Moore
pipe fitter - Sour Lake, Texas


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If it's 5 days and involves pain, it probably has nothing whatsoever to do with welding galvanized! Goodness, Donna, get him to a doctor; don't await an attempted diagnosis by a stranger with no medical qualifications -- over the internet no less.

I hope he gets well soon.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Galvanize poison: milk does it work? I am a Supervisor for a company that handles a lot of galvanize and from time to time we have to weld on it. Although we keep it well vented when they have to weld on it. So some of the welders asked if we could keep milk on hand in case they get sick. Does milk really work?

Curtis Anderson
ethanol plant builders - Manson, Iowa


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Thanks so much for all the info an metal fume fever. I am a graduate student in sculpture and am taking a metal smithing class. I was exposed to zinc fumes tonight while helping a fellow student anneal some steel, that neither of us, nor our instructor realized was galvanized. I had a strange metallic taste in my mouth and headache before I left class (about 2 hours after the incident). The instructor told us to drink some milk or eat some ice cream when we got home, so I treated myself to some frozen custard, but the metallic taste is still there. Also, I am quite achy in my joints and muscles. Hopefully the ice cream will help, but I think I'll have a glass of milk before bed tonight as well. I just wonder how much milk should be consumed to be of help? Here's to feeling better in the morning.

Amy K. Holmes
Graduate Student - St. Louis, Missouri


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It's easy to be polite when you are feeling well and all is right with the world, Amy. It's quite another thing when you are feeling crummy -- so thanks very much for being nice when it couldn't have been easy. We hope you feel well tomorrow.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 29, 2008

Me and my wife have been wandering since we have not been able to replace some of the old galvanized pipes yet make us ill? We have not had the house for long and we both keep having loose bowels and filling that your sinuses are bothering you. Please let me know.

Jeffrey Ldeleted
- Albion, New York


October 30, 2008

Hi, Jeffrey. There is a huge difference between an industrial worker inhaling clouds of smoke from welding of galvanized materials all day, and you drinking water that passed through a galvanized pipe. Although galvanized pipe is not much used for water service anymore, tens of millions of people got their water through galvanized pipes for a lifetime, many still get their's as rain collected from galvanized roofs, and farm animals by the millions eat and drink from galvanized troughs every day.

I think the odds are virtually zero zero that this is the cause of your discomfort; please see an M.D.

Regards,

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 28, 2009

I weld galvanised metal constantly every day! Drink milk! Lots of Milk BEFORE you start welding and during if you are welding for long periods of time. Fresh air hoods are extremely helpful but the calcium is what your losing and can cause the flu like symptoms

Doug Jones
- Hackett, Arkansas


June 1, 2011

My son was carrying a bag of debris from my basement and caught his scalp on the edge of a galvanized steel hanger, can he get poison from the cut on the galvanized steel?

Virginia Kelly
Mom checking for info for son's injury. - Woodbury, NJ, USA

June 1, 2011

Hi, Virginia.

I don't think this is anything to worry about except for the fact that galvanizing probably does not offer protection from tetanus. If you would see a doctor were it non-galvanized, see a doctor. Good luck.

Regards,

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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