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Galvanized metal grinding

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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.


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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.

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

Respirator, Sanding


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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
- CANADA


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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.

As a side note, a particulate filter respirator can cause some degree of stress, as it is more strenuous to breath through them. OSHA requires that employees who wear respiratory protection undergo a medical review to ensure that wearing a respirator will not endanger their health. Though it is not common, some individuals with an underlying physical ailment such as cardiovascular disease or asthma may be adversely affected by wearing respiratory protection.

Kyle Madden
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


February 1, 2011

What are the symptoms of inhalation of fumes caused by grinding galvanised metal?

geoffrey kendrew
kendrew - Wales UK

Developing a Safety and Health Program


February 2, 2011

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 get 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.

Regards,

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

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