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Is Galvanized Steel Poisonous?

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Q. Hello, I work with galvanized steel and I was just wondering if it is poison and if so, what are the harmful effects that it can cause.

Thank-you

Dominic Sumner
- Adrian, Michigan


(2001)

"All things are poison and nothing (is) without poison; only the dose makes that a thing is no poison." -- Paracelsus (1493-1541)

A. Hi, Dominic.

Galvanized steel is steel with a zinc coating for corrosion protection. Just as a baby aspirin a day is a healthy regimen for millions, whereas a baby eating a bottle of aspirin is a medical emergency, so too with zinc.

Zinc is most certainly not poisonous! Rather, it is an essential nutrient ["Zinc is an essential mineral that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement" -- nih.gov]. Cold prevention tablets and nasal sprays are zinc, and it's included in multivitamins.

When you say "work with", is it your job or your hobby? Do you mean you weld it or you just bend and cut it? If you weld galvanized metal, the coating vaporizes, and inhaling clouds of this vaporized zinc can certainly give you "metal fume fever" and possibly worse. Further, there might be very small amounts of lead and hexavalent chromium in/on the articles, and these are poisons.

If you can flesh out your question with a bit more detail about how you "work with" it, we may be able to help! Thanks.

Welding Safety

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


(2001)

A. Dominic,

Is galvanized steel poisonous, you ask. YES, ABSOLUTELY, Don't whatever you do eat it! The harmful effects of its specific gravity on your stomach lining are enormous. It can't be digested. Mind you, you could make up a nice stew by dissolving it in acid but gastronomically this is not Cordon Bleu cooking ... and also poisonous. As long as you don't eat it, or lead, or copper, or aluminum or any metal, you should lead a normal life.

freeman newton portrait Freeman Newton
- White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

freeman newton died


(2001)

A. How is it you "work with" galvanized steel? If you merely bend it, cut it, shear it, punch it, or roll form it; you shouldn't be in any danger. However, if you are welding it, the welding fumes are dangerous.

The galvanize coating will not be absorbed, by your skin. However, it could have a thin coating of rust preventive oil. Some people have allergic reactions to the oil. You should be wearing gloves. If the gloves get saturated with oil, get new gloves. You could also put protective cream, on your hands. Wash your hands before eating.

If you are not self employed, your company should have a material safety data sheet, for your galvanized materials.

Never eat or drink, from any galvanized product. You could get zinc poisoning. But you shouldn't be doing this, at work or home.

I also believe "lead" has been removed from all galvanize coatings. The EPA forced galvanize producers to remove the small amount of lead which was in the zinc coating.

I have also "worked with" galvanize products for 25 years. It's not something which I believe is dangerous to my health.

Good Luck,

Terry Magyar
steel co. - Columbus, OHIO


(2001)

Q. Hello.

My brother works with Galvanised steel 6 days a week, welding and bending the steel. I am concerned for his health and was wondering exactly what chemicals are in Galvanised steel and what fumes (names of the fumes?) are being given off? Are the chemicals in these fumes damaging to his health and what precautions can he take? Also if anyone knows of any web sites to MSDS that I could look at that are relevant to the chemicals my brother is being exposed to it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Heather Davis
- Sydney, NSW, Australia


(2001)

A. Heather,

A good website for MSDS sheets is siri.org/msds. This site provides free MSDS information. There are other sites too if you use any web search engine like google.

Your brother is probably fine. The most hazardous chemicals he would be working with are probably concentrated acids and hexavalent chromium. Both of these are reasonably safe to work with if proper care is taken. He should be able to ask his boss for hazard information. In the U.S., we have the Hazards Communications Act in which providing this information to workers is a legal requirement. I would imagine that Australia might have a similar law.

If I were you, I would be more concerned about the safety procedures at his facility than the specific chemicals. Workplaces need to be concerned about things like railings, good ventilation, first aid kits, eyewashes, safety showers, housekeeping, and chemical handling training. If his management is responsible and concerned about safety, then I would not worry.

Tim Neveau
Rochester Hills, Michigan


(2002)

A. I looked up zinc poisoning on WebMD and it is poisonous. Heather, you need to let your brother know that inhaling the fumes of galvanized steel will screw you up. I was welding pipes of galvanized steel and I thought I had a major onset of the flu. If he works with it for a living the company he works for is required to let him know all of the risks and preventative measures.

Ian Davidson
- Charlottesville, Virginia


(2002)

A. Yes, that seems like the metal flu, similar symptoms to the flu, but caused by exposure to the fumes.

Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania

(2002)

A. Hello,

I stumbled onto your question while researching the exact topic of welding galvanized surfaces. In my research, I've found that in addition to the numerous common welding fumes that are harmful to inhale, galvanized metals give off zinc oxide when heated. Zinc oxide causes metal fume fever. Good ventilation is the key to welding! Don't breathe all those metals- your body can handle quite a lot, but it's best to minimize your health risks.

Casey Bogen
- Portland, Oregon


(2003)

A. If you are welding galvanized then you are at a great risk of getting what is called welding fume fever, the symptoms of this are identical to flu but very rarely last longer than 48 hours. If this happens to you once, then think about getting a better extraction system because if this is a common problem then the harm done to you will get worse as time goes on. The body can only take so much before it starts to fail. Also I would recommend that you do some research on the production of Ozone when welding galvanized and other metals such as stainless steel and aluminium.

Gavin Barr
- Sheffield, England



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(2003)

Q. WHAT ABOUT THE OLD THING OF DRINKING MILK WHEN WELDING GALVANIZED METALS?

LES DRUMMOND
TRAILERS - DENVER, COLORADO


(2003)

Q. Les Drummond asked the question about milk. I have also heard that milk will remove the poison. Is it true or is it the by product of too much green smoke?

Randy Brown
- West Milton, Ohio


(2005)

A. I have been welding on some galvanized panels and old plumbing pipe that I am using to build holding pens and roping arena, I am also a firefighter and have the privilege to be around doctors and paramedics, I was told that if you drink milk it will help offset the poison, although you don't want that to be your primary remedy. I was also told that you can wear a charcoal respirator, I don't know how true this is but I have been sick for the last week, with the wind blowing away from me and all so I don't know.

Michael L Jordan
self employed welder - Ada, Oklahoma


September 28, 2009

A. I don't know about the milk for galvanizing but it does help after welding stainless steel.

Jeff Keen
- Claremore, Oklahoma


June 10, 2011

A. Galvanise coating is dangerous to your health if ingested (so wash your hands after handling) and if the gas off it is inhaled for example when welding. Inhaling the gas will cause severe flu like symptoms that last about 48 hrs. 'galv flu'. It also attacks the lining on your stomach. Drinking milk before welding lines your stomach and will help but it still goes through your lungs which can't be good! Best wearing appropriate breathing apparatus and in well ventilated area.

Andy Jones
- Old Colwyn, Conwy, North Wales


(2003)

Q. I work for a company that welds galvanized steel, and I was wondering where I could find information about the side effects and symptoms associated to the smoke and fumes of the galvanized steel.

Wayne Brown
- Columbus, Mississippi


(2003)

A. Hi, Wayne. We now have at least six threads about that subject on-line here; so please try the search engine at the top of the page. You didn't say whether you are the safety director for your company or an employee doing the welding. If the former, you have some work in front of you; if the latter, ask your employer for the MSDS and related safety information. Good luck.

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

Welding: A Management Primer and Employee Training Guide


(2004)

Q. Hi I have been welding galvanized steel for the last 5 years I wear a air back pack. What sort of affects could I have when I get older. I am 31 years old -- is it harmful?

Jamie Donnelly
sub/contractor - Melbourne, Vic, Australia


July , 2008

A. Hi, Jamie. I think that "metal fume fever" is a good "canary in the coal mine". If you are prudently wearing an air pack and you are suffering no metal fume fever episodes, I would not expect long term problems. However, your employer should somehow offer you access to an industrial hygienist or a doctor. Remember that these public comments are offered by people in the metal finishing industry and users, but generally not industrial hygienists or doctors.

Regards,

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

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i. I just want to add to the ever growing question concerning potential occupational over exposure to galvanized steel. Take note that not only do you need to look for welding fumes, but you also need to look at potential fluorides.

Shawn Jacob
- Lexington, Kentucky


Please clarify that for me, Shawn. Where are these fluorides coming from in the topic of this discussion? Fluorine is an element; it cannot be generated from any chemical reaction; that is, it cannot be released unless it was present in the first place. There is certainly no fluoride in the galvanizing, so please clarify what situation you are alluding to, and what material has fluorine in or on it -- some welding rods maybe? Thanks!

Regards,

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


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January 5, 2008

Q. Would the same negative affects "metal fumes" result from using a piece of galv. steel pipe in place of a piece of black stove pipe on a wood heating furnace?

I know someone who is using same and have had concerns.

TIA,
David

David A, Tobey
- Auburn, Washington


January 7, 2008

A. The exhaust ducts on gas-fired water heaters, boilers,and furnaces are almost universally galvanized, and I don't think wood stove ductwork should be much different. I doubt that the outside surface of the duct could ever reach the melting point of zinc, about 420 °C (the hottest point on the outside of my stove reaches about 320 °C); and I don't think even the heart of a wood fire reaches the 907 °C boiling point of zinc.

Still, if you read the installation instructions for wood stoves, most will tell you to use black painted ductwork rather than galvanized. But who knows if any stove manufacturer has actually seen a "fume fever" problem, or they are just reinforcing urban legend -- especially since most wood stoves, including mine, have galvanized ash collector trays :-)

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

July 22, 2008

Q. Hi,
I built a rotisserie, and needed a spit for the meat I'm thinking of using galvanized steel.
Is it safe?

Vic Askovic
hobbyist - New Jersey


July 2008

A. Hi, Vic. No, it's not "safe" because zinc is not a "food-safe" material. There should be no contact between food and galvanized surfaces. That is because acidic foods can dissolve zinc and we don't want the situation of people eating the dissolved zinc, and the possibility of overdose.

Again, zinc is an essential nutrient not a poison -- but you don't make coffee cups out of aspirin, or spits our of zinc :-)

Regards,

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

July 13, 2009appended

Q. Is it safe to use zinc plated 1/4 inch rod to skewer through a pig to keep it from spinning on the rotisserie rod for a pig roast? The cook temp will be around 300 degrees but the internal temp will only reach 165 degrees.

Jason Armagost
buyer - Ridgway, Pennsylvania


July 14, 2009

A. Hi, Jason. Zinc is not a food-safe material. The temperature doesn't matter, food should not directly be mixed in or skewered onto zinc. That doesn't mean it's a genuine hazard, just that guidelines say we shouldn't do it.

Regards,

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

August 1, 2008

Q. In pottery we sometimes fire with saggars or containers inside a propane gas kiln or a pit. I have been firing an outside gas kiln to 1130 degrees with galvanized trash cans with lids. The cans are filled with wood shavings to smoke fire pots. I was recently told that I can no longer use the galvanized cans in the kiln because they release fumes that will damage the kiln bricks. This seems silly to me since glazes contain zinc and other hazardous chemicals and I've seen no damage to the bricks. Can you tell me if galvanized metal contains any substance that would damage the kiln bricks when heated to this temperature? Would there be harm to individuals since the kiln is outdoors? If so would a respirator take care of it? Thank you.

Carol Darnell(returns)
- Wilmington, Ohio


August 5, 2008

A. Hi, Carol. Don't inhale the fumes, they could possibly give you flu-like "metal fume fever", but you surely don't anyway. I don't know 100% about zinc damaging kiln bricks but I seriously doubt it.

Regards,

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

August 7, 2008

Q. Hi,
I built a rotisserie spit and made the box out of galvanized steel. I sanded and wiped the metal with vinegar and then painted the inside of the box with barbecue paint. Do you think this is safe to use or am I looking for trouble. thank you

Joey Vazquez
welder new in the trade - Austin Texas


August 7, 2008

A. Hi, Joey. I personally doubt that it's any problem. The enclosure is not a food surface. But paint fumes are not good. Get it good and hot without food in it a few times first.

Regards,

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

April 8, 2009

Q. Hi. My name is Shelley and I'm the mother of a 14 month-old. Currently, I do not have a bathtub, only a shower. I am wondering if galvanized steel is safe to use as a bathtub for my son. Will the zinc or other metal leach into the water where it may enter his mouth, eye, etc? Thanks!

Shelley Desai
hobbyist - Portland, Oregon


April 25, 2009

A. Hi, Shelley. The feed troughs and watering troughs on many farms are galvanized; people in remote areas have collected rain water off their galvanized roofs for many purposes, including drinking, for decades; and a great deal of water piping (maybe most water piping) was galvanized until a few decades ago. I personally don't think there is any danger whatsoever, but if anyone thinks there is, they are encouraged to post the reason for their concern.

Regards,

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

May 21, 2009

Q. My husband is a bystronic laser operator and just started working with galvanized steel pipes. They have a vacuum system attached to the machine sucking up the fumes. He wants to know if there is any danger of not wearing a respirator while cutting it? He has 2 fans for ventilation blowing it away. He is really concerned if he is in danger or if the people around him 2 machines over should be concerned. Please let us know.Thanks

Tammyleigh Callagy-Pitzer
- Indianapolis, Indiana


May 28, 2009

Q. Hi! I have a question - I put galvanized fencing around my strawberry patch (to keep the birds out) and I'm wondering if that's unsafe (could zinc leach into the soil, etc). In a previous post you stated that galvanized metal is not safe for food, but you also said that it's okay for bath water. Thanks in advance for your response!

Catherine Chandler
- Orrville, Ohio


May 29, 2009

A. Hi, Catherine. Galvanized fencing is fine. When we say it's not "food-safe" we mean you should not cook in zinc pots or serve food out of zinc containers because of the possibility of acidic food or drink dissolving the zinc, and you consuming too much of it. Zinc is not poison, it is an essential nutrient; cold prevention tablets are one example of the deliberate consumption of zinc.

Regards,

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

September 28, 2009

Q. I was wondering if there are any side effects of the actual process of hot dip galvanizing fumes. There is a company across the street from where I work and they hot dip galvanize their parts on site. Thank You

Jeff Keen
welder - Claremore, Oklahoma

Welding Respirator


September 28, 2009

A. Hi, Jeff. Most industrial facilities have exhaust systems and fume scrubbers to clean up emissions from processes like these. If you can see and smell fumes, and find them objectionable, in most areas the state EPA will make the shop correct the problem under a nuisance clause even if they do not exceed emission standards.

We can't even definitively say whether carefully monitored things consumed in definitively measured amounts like coffee, red wine, and milk are good or bad for you -- the answers seem to change every few months. So to try to estimate the possible side effects of an unknown amount of fumes from a process you're not familiar with, that are controlled to an unknown degree, on someone in an office in a different building across the street is simply impossible. Sorry.

Regards,

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

December 10, 2009appended

Q. Is it dangerous for my families health to use galvanized pipe for my fire place blower? The pipe is in the bottom of the fireplace so as to have the embers around it heat the pipe then a fan blows through the pipe. Can this cause zinc or galvanized poisoning from the pipe being heated by the fire?

Thanks,

Dale Huff
hobbyist - Strawberry Plains, Tennessee


December 11, 2009

A. Hi, Dale. As noted in the beginning of this thread and a dozen like it, everything is relative. The amount of zinc exposure from this sounds reasonably minimal, and zinc is considered non-toxic.

What would concern me far more is the possibility of pinhole leaks in your piping which, depending on whether the section under the coals is on the suction side of the fan, could draw carbon monoxide into the house.

Regards,

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

December 11, 2009

! Ted,
Thank you for the answer and your concern at this point in time the piping is still new, I have planned on it burning through in a season or two so I will be checking it regularly. Thank you again this site has been very helpful and educating.

Thanks

Dale Huff
hobbyist - Strawberry Plains, Tennessee


February 1, 2010

Q. I'm unclear of the answers somewhat. Is it safe to deliver smoke to a smokehouse with galv. pipe?

Scott Maraczi
- Winfield, Missouri


April 6, 2010

Q. I would like to make balcony veggie garden boxes made from galvanized metal. These boxes will match the house. Will the zinc leach into my soil and poison my vegetables?

Catherine Harley
- Boulder, Colorado


April 6, 2010

A. Hi, Catherine. No, it won't.

Regards,

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

October 12, 2010

Q. I see people using galvanized metal containers to grow vegetables. With water containing chlorides (salts), fertilizers containing salts, and electrolysis in the ground, I am wondering where the metals, etc. are going when they dissolve. Is this not a hazard to eat food grown this way. Some even "line the galvanized container, but guarantee not to corrode for 8 years. So am I consuming heavy metals for 8 years until I replace the container?
Thanks

Alex Kallas
Sustainable agriculture educator - Vista, California, USA

October 12, 2010

A. Hi, Alex. Although it is bad for welders to breathe zinc fumes, and it may be bad to put acidic foods into contact with zinc because of vaguely possible overdose, zinc is not plutonium, it's an essential nutrient. The MDR for zinc is 15 mg, and it is fairly common to take 100 mg per day for short periods to help ward off colds and flu. Farm animals eat and drink out of galvanized troughs all the time; and in rural parts of the world people collect rainwater from galvanized roofs for drinking. It will take years for all of the galvanizing to dissolve into the soil, probably decades more for all for much of it to be taken up into the plants; then much of the plant will be thrown away or composted and only a fraction eaten. I doubt that the vegetables have any chance of providing your MDR let alone deterring colds.

The term "heavy metals" is a horrible one, invented by alarmists, and is obfuscatory. It can be dangerous to toss that term around because it implies commonality between relatively harmless materials like tin, iron, gold and zinc on the one hand with extremely hazardous metals like cadmium, lead, and mercury on the other.

Regards,

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

October 13, 2010

Q. Hi, I have built an apple press to make cider using a galvanised drain tray. The juice when pressed will collect in the tray and drain straight out of holes in the corners. Is this safe as the juice will only stay in the tray for a short while. Should I line the tray with plastic?

David Hadsley
- Hertfordshire, UK

October 13, 2010

A. Hi, David. Fruit juices are the kind of acidic food that concern us with galvanizing. I don't think your life is in peril, but the taste of your juice probably is. Yes, line it.

Regards,

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

December 22, 2010

Q. I live in Kansas City, Missouri and unknowingly, as a secretary, breathed sheet metal welding, gluing and cutting fumes for 2 years. I don't know where to go or what type of doctor or hospital to go to for diagnosis and treatment.
I go from "normal" to immediate uncontrollable Parkinson-like movements and shortness of breath when I breathe minute amounts of chemical fumes (perfume, cigarette smoke, car exhaust, glues, etc.) I also react to anesthesia and medications.
My reactions affect my heart and have caused me on one occasion to die plus chest pains, headaches, vision problems, lung granulanomas and nodules, depression, forgetfulness, fatigue and an inability to organize.
I became ill after my company bought and moved the sheet metal company they had outsourced welding to for years into our shop, increasing shop men from 7 to 35 and adding forklift trucks, plasma bed cutter, a second gluing/cutting table, lots of welding machines, degreasing areas, etc. and worked double shifts making commercial HVAC ductwork

Ann Adams
Sick from welding fumes - Kansas City, Missouri, USA

December 22, 2010

A. Hi, Ann. I am very sorry to hear of your ill health. It sounds like you believe that your health issues are the result of exposure to something in your work environment and can be accordingly treated, whereas your doctors, who know better than you and I, apparently think your work history has little bearing on the best treatment.

You could try calling a poison control center and see if they have a recommendation for a doctor you can see. A personal injury lawyer may have a specialist doctor they can refer you to who might be familiar with similar symptoms, or might be able to help you in other ways. Best of luck. I'm certainly not making such an assertion, but it is possible that your medical issues may have nothing whatsoever to do with your employment.

Regards,

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

January 26, 2011

Q. I wanted and had installed a metal cap fitted to close off the roof my fireplace to prevent heat loss from the gas log insert. After installation I was told that the metal was galvanised steel (my original request was for stainless) I asked about any safety issues and was told as long as the flames did not directly impact the metal there were not any. I have a very low tolerance for fumes. It did not take me long to start having this metallic taste. I am concerned that just being heated is dangerous. If so I will have it removed sooner than later.

RICHARD LEE CARTWRIGHT
- FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina

April 29, 2012

A. Hi, Richard.

In my house the same type of enclosure was also made of galvanized and was not a problem. But I understand that people can have extreme sensitivities. Please look at the exhaust ductwork on your other gas appliances like furnace, hot water heater, and clothes dryer though. Odds are all of it is galvanized.

In my house a real issue was the impossibility of cleaning out the accumulating creosote collecting on this galvanized "shelf", and you might want to make sure that you and the installer have considered the possible chimney fire danger of the installation if it allows creosote to build up.

Regards,

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

May 27, 2011

Q. I have been welding galvanized for over 10 years and now I have learned after 6 months in a specialist's treatment that my lungs can no longer take the fumes. I have to take an inhaler from now on because of lung damage.

Chester Tumlin
- Jefferson, Georgia

 

A. Hi, Chester. Assuming that you never smoked, you could be right that you've identified the problem. But if you do or ever did smoke, you are possibly in denial of your personal responsibility :-)

I smoked but never welded, and I, too, must take an inhaler from now on. :-(

Regards,

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

November 13, 2011

Q. My husband works as a steel tube mill operator. He read the MSDS labels concerning the galvanized steel they are turning into tube. This includes a welding process. It said it can be dangerous.The company said they would do a week long test. There is no ventilation. It is already making people sick. Do they not have the right to refuse on safety conditions?

Linda Kell
- Evansville Indiana

November 15, 2011

A. Hi, Linda.

Employers must comply with OSHA standards; it is not optional. Someone can call the OSHA hotline semi-anonymously and have the situation investigated.

However, as much as you may be concerned for your husband's health, it is he -- or better yet his sick co-workers -- who must call, not you. You have nothing to go on but second-hand hearsay about conditions in the plant, and third-hand hearsay about the health of your husband's co-workers. Good luck.

Regards,

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

November 15, 2011

Q. I use a circular galvanized feed pan underneath my dutch oven to hold the briquettes. The pan is about 4" deep, the oven is about 8" tall. I have heard that the heat from the briquettes cause some galvanized gas (I am guessing zinc) that is poisonous. Any one know anything about this? I have been outdoor cooking like this for years....no problems...but, others are saying this is very dangerous?

Cliff Cayton
- Portland, Oregon USA

November 16, 2011

A. Hi, Cliff.

A baby aspirin a day can be good for you or at least harmless, a baby eating a bottle of aspirin can be very bad for it.

Zinc is an essential nutrient, not a poison. The tiny amount, if any at all, of vaporized zinc from your dutch oven is surely harmless, but the clouds of vaporized zinc to which a welder is exposed when welding galvanized metal can be harmful.

Regards,

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

February 7, 2012

Q. I work as an operator on a CO2 Laser. I recently was asked to cut several sheets of 14 ga. galvanized steel. The result has been almost a week of flu like symptoms including a fever that keeps me from sleeping. Has anyone else been exposed to Zinc Oxide in this manner?

John Vento
- Melville, New York, USA


February 16, 2012

Q. Dear Sir,

We are a set of four students making a food machine and we are using GI sheet metal to make a hopper shaped container that carries the dough. Also we use the same GI sheet to make an oil bath where we heat the oil up to 200 °C. Can GI sheet can be used or is it dangerous to use GI in food processing units? Please educate us!

Thanks!

Regards,

Anamikadeleted
- India


February 16, 2012

A. Hi, Anamika and friends. Galvanized metal should not be used for food. Excessive zinc can dissolve into acidic or highly alkaline foods. Plus the galvanized coating might also contain a small amount of lead, and possibly a very thin layer of toxic hexavalent chrome. It's not so much a question of actually dangerous as learning that there are safety codes which govern our design work.

Regards,

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

February 25, 2012

Q. I spray zinc wire at work. It's called terminal arc spraying. When I am finished for the day I got 1/4 inch of zinc powder on my person and on the floor; when I get home at night my wife told me I stop breathing for a few minutes -- could it be the zinc?

usherdeleted
- hartford Connecticut


February 27, 2012

A. Hi, Usher.

I haven't personally read of sleep apnea being a symptom of exposure to zinc. Maybe the undertaker will tell your wife different though, since apparently you are not going to go to the doctor even though you stop breathing :-(

Regards,

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

March 15, 2012

Q. Hi Ted,
Thank you for all the info here. I'm wondering if using a galvanized water trough as a hot tub is safe for me and my family? It is a trough that would be used for live stock.
Thanx so much.

Genevieve Littletion
- Oakland, California, USA


March 16, 2012

A. Hi Genevieve.

If livestock can safely drink from such a trough, yes, you can safely bathe in it. However, it will not be durable if you use chlorine or bromine disinfectants in it instead of dumping after each use. These are very very tough on metal.

Regards,

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

March 17, 2012

Q. I have a question about galvanized steel wire. I am using 18 gauge wire, to make ear wires, and earrings. When I make the ear wires, I bend and cut the wire, then polish the wire with a soft cloth. Can this amount of contact cause any poisoning?

Tiffanie DeMayo
- Newport, New Hampshire, USA


March 18, 2012

A. Hi, Tiffanie.

I don't know whether you really mean "galvanized", i.e., coated with zinc by hot dipping -- but this is certainly not a proper material for ear wires or anything that goes in a piercing. I doubt that polishing it can possibly harm you, but inserting galvanized material into a piercing is not good for the buyer of the jewelry.

Regards,

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

March 26, 2012

I'm not sure what method was used to galvanize the steel wire. I do know it's smooth, and shiny, and I have been wearing a pair of earrings made out of this wire for a few days now, and my ears are fine.

Tiffanie DeMayo
- Newport


March 27, 2012

Hi again.

I suspect that the wire is perhaps not galvanized, but rather coated or plated with something else, or maybe it's stainless steel. When you buy it, is there any description or specification of what it is? If it is actually galvanized it is not considered safe for skin contact whether you've had a reaction or not. Galvanized wire may also have a small amount of hexavalent chrome on it.

Regards,

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

March 29, 2012

Q. What is the melting point temperature of G.I. Sheet with a thickness of two (2) mm.

arthur arcenas
switch gear - Dubai, UAE


April 2, 2012

A. Hi, Arthur.

As far as I know, the thickness of the steel has no effect on the melting point of the zinc coating, which is about 420 °C as mentioned earlier in the thread. Good luck.

Regards,

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

April 29, 2012

! Yes, extremely toxic gases are released when heated above 1200°C. Make sure you wear a mask if welding or similar work involving high temperatures. Also ensure the work is done outside or in really well ventilated room. While the fumes are generally odorless they can cause everything from loss of appetite and dizziness to lung burns and even death.

Yek Ravani
- Ottawa Ontario Canada


August 11, 2012

Q. Hello, I have read your responses on the vegetable garden and I have a similar question. I am making raised bed and I was wondering if the hexavalent chromium you mentioned may find it's way into vegetables? Alternatively will it leach out of the sheets and wash down into the water table? Perth has a high water table and sandy soils that offer no resistance to chemicals passing through. I don't want to contribute to poisoning the ground water. (I know the amounts would be minute but it all adds up doesn't it?)

I have also heard that frogs will not go near galvanised steel, because it's toxic to them. Do you know anything about this? I would like to have an organic vegetable garden with no toxins and lots of frogs. The other building material would be wood but we have so many termites and I don't really want treated wood to introduce arsenic. I can use non-treated but then my beds would fall apart and I would be encouraging termites to hang out near my house.

Thanks for your time :)

Penelope Stutz
- Perth, Western Australia, Australia


August 12, 2012

A. Hi Penelope. Chrome is also an essential nutrient, and miniscule amounts of hexavalent chrome probably won't survive their trip to either your vegetables or the water table.

Sorry, I never heard this story about frogs avoiding galvanized steel, but I have heard that zinc is poisonous to parrots, so I suppose it's possible. Although people are one type of animal, animals are not people; the assumption that what is safe/dangerous for them is safe/dangerous for us and vice-versa is not always true.

Regards,

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

August 24, 2012

Q. My propane BBQ grate sits too low. I found some galvanized fence loop caps that fit nicely into the grill and they supported another grill at just the right height. Of course the galvanized brackets are sitting on top of the burners. I often cook with the lid closed which would trap any emissions, if any. Am I putting my family's health at risk?

Douglas Richards
- London, Ontario, Canada


August , 2012

A. Hi Douglas. We're only approximating that the fence caps are "galvanized", without any detailed understanding of the manufacturing process for those specific parts.

The general rule, of course, is that nothing should be used in food preparation that was not intended for use in food preparation because no epidemiologist will have studied the issue and be able to offer any statistical data or facts. So it ends up with people just taking a guess, and their guesses are colored by their limited life experiences and their personality :-(

My own personal feeling is that I would run the BBQ for a while with the top open, and then not worry about it. But if someone else would worry about it, I really can't say they shouldn't. Sorry, but better answers are not available when we use things for unintended purposes.

Regards,

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

September 5, 2012

Q. Hi Ted,
Just found your informative forum.

Similar to the other person, I too made a smoker. I used what appears to be either grey phosphate and/or black oxide coated metal container. I had a gas burner at the bottom, so no wood or any other combustible material was in there. After a few seconds some thick black smoke came out which I breathed in. It wasn't very pleasant, let me tell you. I did get tightness in chest and felt bad for some days.

My thoughts are that the inside was coated with either a water soluble oil, sealer, or wax. Do you know if this is particularly harmful? I guess it's too late now, but if you have any information about this, I'd be most appreciative. I'm going to see my GP next week (still a little wheezy). Thanks! John

John Dennis
- Christchurch, New Zealand


September 6, 2012

A. Hi John.

Sorry, but I just don't have any idea what that coating was. Anything you inhale is bad for you because it can coat the lungs. Phosphates and black oxides are usually waxed or oiled, so it may have been vaporized oil. I have heard (not familiar with the actual cases, but have no trouble believing it) that people have died from breathing regular compressed air because the oil dispersed in the air coated their lungs. Your smoker will probably be okay after what is on it burns off, but as I previously said, it's dangerous to use stuff on hand and assume it will be safe because, although odds are in your favor, we just don't know what it is.

Although I'm certainly no doctor, I think that one-time exposure to stuff that didn't seriously injure you rarely has any long term consequences. Good luck.

Regards,

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

September 11, 2012

Q. I wanted to know if the coating on galvanized steel would leach into the skin if it were made into jewelry?

Cheryl Mosca
- Kernersville, North Carolina USA


September 11, 2012

A. Hi Cheryl. With no disrespect, I don't think that's quite the right question. I think the question should be whether galvanized steel is a good finish for jewelry, and I think the answer is "probably not".

Although galvanizing protects the steel from rusting, think about what protects the galvanizing itself from quickly dissolving away in unsightly fashion: a hard, glassy, and corrosion-resistant zinc carbonate skin forms on galvanizing when it is out in the open air and free to react with carbon dioxide. When those conditions don't exist, galvanizing corrodes away with voluminous white corrosion products called "wet storage stain", so I doubt that you will find galvanizing to be a satisfactory jewelry finish.

Regards,

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

November 29, 2012

Q. We have an oven in which we cure composite. The design of oven has a temperature range up to 450 °F. Some panels on the floor have been damaged (aluminized steel). We want to replace these panels with galvanized (easier to obtain locally and more cost effective). Are there any health issues or structure problems that we could be facing. Also the oven does have a power exhaust flue.

Mike Mickus
- Wichita, Kansas, USA


November 29, 2012

A. Hi Mike. I don't think there is any cause for concern at all, except for the fact that aluminized steel may be more corrosion resistant in this particular application (I don't know).

Regards,

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

December 25, 2012

A. To the comments about drinking milk... It's when working with lead, like lead based paints, that when you drink a pint of milk, it stabilizes the lead toxins. I'm not sure if it's the same for galvanized metals.

Dazzii B
- Doncaster, England


April 22, 2013

Q. Hi,
I am building my own garage gym and I got a galvanized steel pipe which I would like to use as a wrist roller.
I will be touching this pipe usually not longer than 30 minutes at a time.
Can skin oils and sweat cause any funky reactions and the resulting compounds be absorbed through the skin?
Thank you for your help.
Best Regards,
Jens S.

Jens Schuetz
- Santa Clara, California, USA


April 22, 2013

A. Hi Jens. You'll be happier if you paint a piece of black iron pipe instead. The paint will stick better; you'll worry less (we've explained again and again that it's all is a matter of degree, and nobody can help you decide what the risk is and whether you'll accept it); and galvanized pipe isn't ideal for this wear and type of environment. Good luck.

Regards,

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

April 25, 2013

Q. Hi there! I have seen a lot of suggestions on craft websites to use galvanized buckets for kids storage. I love the idea and was all set to get some when a neighbor mentioned to me that storing toys in galvanized buckets could be harmful to my child! Yikes! My little guy is 9 months and also sucking on everything! I'm curious and concerned. Please let me know. It seems to be the new hip and economical idea but are parents just not informed or am I overreacting?

Kate Smith
- Santa Cruz, California, USA


April 26, 2013

A. Hi Kate. Things are not "safe" vs. "unsafe" -- rather, everything is relative. Far more children die in car accidents than from any other cause, but few parents keep their children out of cars because they are "unsafe".

9 month old children should not be sucking on galvanized objects -- but that does not mean that galvanized buckets for storage is any realistic threat at all to older children. Best of luck.

Regards,

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

May 20, 2013

Q. I'm thinking of using a vintage Broil King Hot Plate.

The flat heating plate is tin, but looks like chrome, very shiny.

Will tin off-gas when heated?

Thanks

Roger Pelizzari
- West Virginia

May 23, 2013

A. Hi Roger. You posted your question under the topic of safety of "zinc" (galvanizing), but you say the heating plate is made of "tin", but it looks like "chrome". Unfortunately, you don't actually know what it's made of, and it's unlikely that any reader would either, unless they happen to be retired from a career working in the plating shop of Broil King :-)

You say this item is vintage, so presumably it's been used many times over the decades. I don't know how a thin shiny plating on the surface of a heating plate could possibly sustain outgassing for decades even if it were made of some exotic poisonous metal, which it's obviously not. Don't worry about it! But if you want something to worry about, consider whether there might be asbestos in the insulation :-)

Good luck.

Regards,

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

May 28, 2013

Q. I have a friend that is using a galvanized trough that is used as a livestock water container to sterilize/pasteurize straw as a growing medium. He is heating it with open propane burners from below but only bringing the internal temperature to @170-180 degrees. Is there a health problem with the food crops he's growing in this straw?

Jaime Yarbrough
- Smith River, California, USA


May 31, 2013

A. Hi Jaime. It was a livestock water container, so it was safe enough for that; and he's barely warming it, so I see no problem.

Regards,

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

June 6, 2013

Q. I am heating water for my pool through galvanized pipe running through a fire, I know that galvanized pipe can give off toxic fumes when put in a fire at first, I was wondering about the water being contaminated. I am keeping the water circulating through the pipes and it is heating my water up just worried about the water being safe to swim in.

Brandon S.
- Mulberry, Indiana USA


June 10 2013

A. Hi Brandon. As mentioned a couple of times, zinc is an essential nutrient not a toxin. The amount of this essential nutrient that you have added to a pool full of swimming water by heating the galvanized pipe is probably not even measurable. Good luck.

Regards,

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

July 4, 2013

Q. I have been doing sheetmetal for 25 plus years (HVAC). Have always been told about the toxic fumes from heating galvanized metal but have also been told that the first burn off usually takes care of that, I am using some 26 ga. to repair cross over channels between the burners on a propane grill (the only parts they don't sell). Would like your thoughts and or opinion . thanks

Dennis Wacker
- Leav., Kansas, United States


July 5, 2013

A. Hi. Personally I wouldn't give it a second thought if you're not welding it.

Regards,

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

August 18, 2013

Q. Hello, I came across this page after searching for info on the safety of galvanized steel in child's room. On the website Pinterest, there are many crafting ideas floating around concerning large oil drip pans used as magnetic boards for children (see nicandkate09.blogspot.com/2011/08/alphabet-board.html for an example of what I'm talking about). Some pointed out that the galvanized steel coating on the pan might have lead in it. I'm wondering if this would be toxic to a child in any way? Assuming it would be hanging on the wall in a child's room and they would be touching it frequently during play. And would spray-painting the pan decrease any of the safety issues, if there are any?

Elizabeth Candelaria
- Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA


August 21, 2013

A. Hi Elizabeth. Galvanizing might have some small amount of lead in it, it might have a small amount of leachable nickel in it, it might have a very dilute chromate conversion coating on it. I don't think it's particularly hazardous, but the operative idea is that if you re-purpose something, using it for something it wasn't intended for, you have no assurance of its safety for the new application. The designer might not know or remember that people might hang the item on a wall for kids to play with.

If you paint it then it sounds quite safe, but paint doesn't stick well to galvanizing. You'd probably have to start with a primer designed for galvanized surfaces before applying your decorative spray paint. Good luck.

Regards,

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

Galvanized Metal Primer


August 25, 2013

Q. Hi, I am planning on hosting a garbage can dinner and bought a new galvanized can, only to discover that it might be dangerous. The food doesn't actually touch the can, water heated in the bottom steams the food. Do you think this is dangerous?

Jenny Koch
- Tremont, Illinois, USA


October 12, 2013 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hey I was just wondering if it's dangerous to use Galvanised steel as jewellery wire. I want to start making Celtic torcs and I want to make the first one out of the wire I already use for sculpting. I'd like to be able to wear it if I make one, do you think it will be safe?

Dan Taylor
- Malvern, Worcestershire, United Kingdom


October 14, 2013

A. Hi Dan. Galvanizing often has a final quench in hexavalent chromate. Even though the amount is miniscule, as a matter of principle I would not use metal that has even a miniscule amount of carcinogenic hexavalent chrome on it as jewelry. Probably just as important, galvanized steel won't make for an aesthetically pleasing jewelry item because of its propensity towards white rust and corrosion when exposed to water and sweat.

Regards,

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

October 14, 2013

A. Have to agree with Ted, even though I sell galvanizing.

It's primarily corrosion protection for steel. It's a zinc coating on the steel that slowly erodes in preference to the steel, until all consumed after which the steel starts to rust (perhaps decades later).

It's not for wearing, eating, etc.

Geoff Crowley Geoff Crowley
galvanizing &
   powder coating shop
Glasgow, Scotland

October 31, 2013

Q. I am having a water well installed and they are going to use galvanized pipe. About 450 feet for the water. Is that safe for drinking water?

Ryan Snapp
- Eustace, Texas, USA

October 31, 2013

A. Hi Ryan. Please contact your town or county health department about this. Galvanized pipe was very widely used for water service in the old days but is rarely used today. It may be against local codes. Plastic pipe is probably more common today.

Regards,

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



November 4, 2013

Q. I'd like to make an old galvanised gas bottle (large 45 kg size) into a shed heater. I understand well the dangers of welding galvanized but what about when the heater is used as a wood burning heater (glowing red heat) is it loosing zinc (vapour or particles) in small quantities or not at all?

Ross Peake
- Canberra, Australia
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