Galvanized metal grinding
Q. I am working with galvanized metal products. I grind them with a hand held angle grinder, which produces a lot of dust. Could anyone tell me the health risk involved in this and what kind of protection I should be using?Richard Beeching
- Lydd-on-Sea, Kent, U.K.
A. Protecting employees from hazards is an employer obligation, so I assume you are self-employed or this is a hobby.
Although zinc is not hazardous in the sense that cadmium, mercury, and lead are, you don't want to breathe any dusts at all, whether work or hobby, wood or metal or plastic. And you probably have no good way of being sure there is no cadmium or lead on the parts you are working with. So you would certainly want a particulate filter as a minimum.
Although welding produces very high temperatures that vaporize zinc, allowing inhalation of the vapor, I don't think grinding will produce zinc fumes, but a suction-type exhaust system or fan may a good idea to be on the safe side. Physicians can do blood monitoring, and if you are working intensively with this stuff you perhaps should be monitored.
Developing a Safety and Health Program
A. THE MOST SENSIBLE SUGGESTION TO YOU WOULD BE IS TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE RESPECTING YOUR HEALTH BY WEARING A MASK, PREFERABLY A CHARCOAL FILLED MASK AND TRY NOT TO GRIND TOWARDS YOURSELF IF THERE ARE NO FUMES, THERE SHOULD NOT BE A STRONG CONCERN. WHERE THERE ARE FUMES NORMALLY AN EXHAUST SYSTEM SHOULD BE USED AND TRY TO WORK IN AN OPEN AREA.GEORGE TOH
A. In reference to the respirator advice given above, for protection from particulates (fumes, dusts, etc.) you should have a respirator with a particulate filter (such as a N-95, or HEPA filter). A charcoal filter will only work for vapors, such as solvents. A charcoal filter will provide no protection against fumes or dusts.
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
February 1, 2011
Q. What are the symptoms of inhalation of fumes caused by grinding galvanised metal?geoffrey kendrew
- Wales UK
February 2, 2011
A. Hi, Geoffrey.
I don't think we have established that grinding produces zinc fumes. The fumes come from vaporization of the metal, and vaporization occurs at a much higher temperature than melting. Grinding wouldn't work too well if you were melting the material. But look up "metal fume fever"; the symptoms are supposedly similar to the flu but last only a few days instead of a week or more. If you only got it once, it's probably difficult to tell if zinc has something to do with it; but if it's repetitive and associated, then it's a good bet.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey