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WELDING FUMES FROM GALVANIZED METAL

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Q. WHEN WELDING GALVANIZED MATERIALS, DOES THE GALVANIZE EMIT TOXIC FUMES?

JEFF PHEBUS
- SARASOTA, Florida


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A. YES

Marc Green
anodizer - Boise, Idaho

Welding Zinc Coated Steels


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A. Jeff,

Yes and are for-sure something to avoid. The fumes can cause irritation to the eye, nose and throat. The inhalation of excessive zinc fumes can place you or the operator over the PEL (permissible exposure limit) and cause metal fume fever. Ozone can also be emitted and prolonged exposure to ozone can cause lung damage.

The best advice, work in a properly ventilated area, use a supplied air welding hood and keep your head out of the plume. Not a bad idea to have specific training for welding safety, if regulated by OSHA 29CFR.

Michael Born
- Cresco, Iowa


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A. Hi, just a little about welding galvanized metals. I have welded galv., on and off for many years and it seems that every time I start welding it after a period of not doing so, sure enough I get sick. I am talking sick as a dog, head thrown over the toilet, or out the window kind of sick. I can go 6 or 8 months after that and never get sick from it because I then remember one very important fact. If you will drink a quart of milk every day (it works best drinking it on the way to work), it beats off the effect of galvanize poisoning and that is what you get when you breathe the fumes of galv. It is very dangerous and milk is not a substitute to being careful. Do your best not to breathe it to start with, but you will get enough if you weld it for several days in the row, unless you have a fresh air supply of some sort and the milk will do wonders.

Dennis John Phillips
construction - Danville, Virginia


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A. I WELD GALVANIZED PIPE ON A REGULAR BASIS. AT THE SHOP WHEN WE GET AN ORDER FOR SOMETHING GALVANIZED, GET TO LOOK FORWARD TO BEING SICK AT THE END OF THE DAY. IF IT DOESN'T HIT YOU BEFORE. WE HAVE FANS WHICH HELP SOME BUT IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO WELD IT DON'T! IT FEELS LIKE A BAD CASE OF THE FLU: MUSCLE ACHES, FEVER, SHIVERS, NODDING OFF. IT SUCKS, PEOPLE.

Victor J Mcconnell
- Gainesboro, Tennessee


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A. From www.sperkoengineering.com/html/articles/WeldingGalvanized.pdf

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When zinc vapor mixes with the oxygen in the air, it reacts instantly to become zinc oxide. This is the same white powder that you see on some noses at the beach and the slopes. Zinc oxide is non-toxic and non carcinogenic. Extensive research(1) into the effects of zinc oxide fumes has been done, and although breathing those fumes will cause welders to think that they have the flu in a bad way, there are no long-term health effects.
--------------

(1) "Extensive Research" means Walsh, Sandstead, Prasad, Newberne and Fraker, Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 102, Supplement 2, June 1994, 5-46. Provides summary plus 471 references.

Milk seems to help because the fumes aren't really poisonous to begin with.

Yes, ventilate, absolutely. But, no, there is no long-term health risks.

Tom Deering
- Albuquerque, New Mexico


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Q. I'm new to welding galvanized. I've been welding it for about a year and like everyone that has posted their letter on here it makes me sick as well. I drink my milk every morning and I also wear a mask. but I still feel really weak at the end of the day and also when I'm welding it my lips get numb and I get kind of shaky like I've just drunk a pot of coffee. I know that they say that there are no long term effects but what about your lungs, no matter what you do you can't get away from the smoke. the mask I wear is just a dust mask with the little vent on the front and that's all the company will supply us to weld it. so my questions are

1: what are the effects on the lungs from the smoke?

2: what kind of mask should I be using?

3: if something can make you that sick how can it not have long term effects like "reduced red blood cell count from just working with the galvanized products" (I got that from ask.com "risk of welding galvanized metal tubing").

Daniel Martin
welding galvanized - Comer Georgia


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A. Anyone who ever has welded galvanized metal KNOWS HOW REAL THIS IS. REGARDLESS OF WHAT SOME @#$%& IN MANAGEMENT MIGHT SAY. I appreciate the milk tip never heard that one before. On Friday I had to run some over head on .5" plate and about halfway through I was done, spent the weekend in bed feeling like the south end of a mule goin' north. The co. I work at now doesn't provide respirators but Oceaneering Int. provided those grey ones with the yellow plastic in the center. they seemed to work real good. I guarantee anyone who says this is bunk ought to try breathing in some for themselves. I heard tell the fumes may even contain trace amounts of arsenic as well. Fruits, and fruit juice should be avoided as well as soda and any other acidic type foods while feeling the effects. Drink plenty of water as always.

Byron E. Vournazos
subsea Consultant - Stanton, California


A. No one on this site or any site that we have linked to seems to claim that this is "bunk", Byron. To the contrary, everyone acknowledges it, and it even has been given the recognized name: "zinc fume fever" or "metal fume fever".

Many people honestly believe it does not have long term effects, however, because after in-depth research which seems to have included tabulating the results of 471 studies, apparently no one has demonstrated a long term ill effect. But at some point OSHA may change their opinion, of course. Further, nobody thinks metal fume fever is "okay"!

I don't think anyone should ever inhale any welding fumes. You need proper hoods with an air supply. But don't try to rig one yourself -- regular compressed air (shop air) will coat your lungs with oil and kill you.

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

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Q. Can galvanized smoke poisoning have long term affects? I have been a sheet metal worker for 4 years now, I am currently 24 years old and have one more year left in my apprenticeship. lately I have been getting the shakes really bad and having really bad diarrhea late at/ night, I feel nauseous as crap and my head hurts are these signs of galvanized poisoning or something else, milk seems to help some but I have it every few days and it seems like once it goes away it just comes right back.

any help would be appreciated, and yes I weld the metal, the thickest I deal with is 16 gauge.

thanks

Brian Arthur
4th year apprentice - Roanoke, Virginia



I already tried to answer that, Brian. Anyone else is welcome to do so. Sorry for your troubles, and please see a doctor.

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

March 12, 2008

Q. I see no mention of the possibility of other metals included in the "zinc" coating. In a water technology course I took, we were told there can be lead and cadmium involved. These are both toxic. Has anybody suffering the symptoms mentioned above consulted a doctor about this? Tests can be done to determine what is in one's blood. Nobody should be going home sick from workplace exposure to questionable substances.

Steve Bean
- Salinas California


March 13, 2008

A. Thanks, Steve. Agreed that no one should go home sick. There is some small and variable amount of cadmium and lead in galvanizing, but you don't need lead or anything else for "metal fume fever" / "zinc fume fever". As mentioned, this illness is well known and understood. Galvanizing is not a questionable substance in the sense of things like this being unknown.

Why not consider zinc to be like the canary in the coal mine? -- don't come home sick from zinc exposure and you won't have to worry about lead or cadmium exposure. Thanks again.

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

March 19, 2008

A. I weld galv. everyday and wear a RESPIRATOR ... get a flexible one with P100 filters (they're pink), and change filters when ever your breathing becomes restricted.

Ryan Hdij
- Kitchener, Ontario, Canada


June 10, 2008

A. 1. I do not weld but do enjoy solving problems.

2. I read www.sperkoengineering.com/html/articles/WeldingGalvanized.pdf and made some grammar corrections to Sperko by email

In www.sperkoengineering.com/html/articles/WeldingGalvanized.pdf

3. These are likely to be stupid observations / questions but here goes anyway:

Has anyone thought to use
A. a counterbalanced rig (think universal gym) attached to the gun?

www.sperkoengineering.com/html/articles/WeldingGalvanized.pdf
PAGE 4 PARAGRAPH 3
B. a partial glovebox, a plexiglass screen with holes for the arms?

C. A HUMAN GUIDED ROBOTIC WELDING ARM OR ARMS IF THEY WOULD BE USEFUL?

PAGE 5 "WHY NOT" PARAGRAPH 2 LINE 3-4
D. tried to use dehumidifier's in a closed room to dry out the item.

YOU MIGHT WANT TO LEAVE IT IN FOR MORE THAN A WEEK.

EQUIPMENT / ROOM / BUILDING 1

CONNECTED

TO POT / TANK / SWIMMING POOL SIZE BUILDING 2

E. LINE 7

YOU WILL WANT TO MULTI STATE REGIONAL CENTERS FOR THIS.

I may have Asperger's syndrome (AS) which explains why I came up with these.

look up ASPERGER , ASPERGINEERING
thanks

Steven Belsky
searched for +GALVANIZED +WELD - Atkinson, New Hampshire


June 22, 2008

Q. We speak of welding fumes and illness and I have been down with some serious side effect no doctor can find, My question is this, what about those of us that have to grind the galvanize off the pipe so our welder can do his job? I have 1-side headaches and constant dizzies and pains in the stomach,the shakes,and the list goes on and on, the metal taste is starting to go away but the pains in my side keeps coming back, how toxic is it to be around grinding this stuff? and if 15 fitters are doing the same around me, you get the picture, not much ventilation is provided

Michael Quillen
- Jacksonville, Florida


July 12, 2008

A. I quickly re-read some of the posts made earlier, and after going to the website posted www.sperkoengineering.com/html/articles/WeldingGalvanized.pdf and seeing the text for myself, I would like to reiterate clearly and in simple sentences the effects (not effect) of galvanize. the effects include: diminished lung capacity, coughing and wheezing similar to asthma, reddish and irritated skin, irritated nose and throat, as well as lungs. Also, MASSIVE HEAVY-METAL DEPOSITS INSIDE THE LUNG. these are elements that will stay inside your lungs until you die, and indefinitely in your grave as zinc deposits.

The AFFECT of these EFFECTS is nausea, fever, rashes, and the whole nine affiliated with fume fever. however the reality is that any exposure, no matter how limited, will probably and eventually cause severe health problems, including LUNG DISEASE AND CANCER OF THE LUNG, EMPHYSEMA, SKIN CANCER AND TUMORS OF THE SKIN, AS WELL AS VARIED NERVOUS SYSTEM PROBLEMS (shakes, dyslexia, and even the inability to focus the pupil). although completely unproven are these statements, so are the statements of other employers and interests groups that study and provide information on companies and industries. there is no SCIENTIFIC basis for anything larger than the fact that zinc oxide used as sunscreen cannot compare to the inhalation of heavy metal directly to the lungs. No studies have been given to show the amount of damage or even relative exposure limits that would lead to damaged lungs. It is coherent to welder in the industry that had he taken the time to learn to weld, so would his education about the types of his materials being welded should be divulged. And it is the fault of the weak, the stupid, and the people that take advantage of both, that we have companies willingly producing toxic environments that will eventually lead to the demise of countless employees. I feel only pity for myself, as I have not yet taken the steps necessary to find a safer, more reliable employer who understands as I do the environment in which we work. God bless us, for the talent and the tenacity to finish the job, regardless of the risks.

Kevin Pdeleted
- Costa Mesa, California

Occupational Diseases


July 13, 2008

! Hi, Kevin. Everyone is welcome to their opinion, and we are happy to print yours.

There is a downside to claiming that something is not harmful if it is, and Sperko and others will suffer consequences if they and their references were wrong.

But there is a downside to extravagant over-the-top claims of cancer, emphysema, and other long term damage that aren't true because your posting has brought terrible heartache to welders and their already panic-stricken spouses that it's too late and the die has been cast. Bringing people heartache for no reason except your vanity would be even worse than bringing people heartache to try to build a product.

Do you have any evidence, support, or qualifications whatsoever for your claims (like a single autopsy or a single reference to an article in a medical journal) regarding "massive heavy metal deposits in the lungs"? Some metals like cadmium, mercury, and lead bio-accumulate and are poison -- but do you have any evidence at all that zinc bio-accumulates? You'll see zinc supplements in health food stores, and lining the pharmacy shelves to help fight colds. Inhaling zinc is not the same as ingesting it, of course -- I'm not saying it's not bad for you, but zinc is an essential micronutrient, not a toxin, so the "accumulation" sounds susicious.

In general, people try to specify appropriate materials of construction, but every one of them poses varying degrees of hazards of one type or another. We need to be smart about what material to use for each application. I'd like to see galvanizing be high purity if it still functions properly at high purity. But mostly we need to make sure that welders have training, good ventilation, a clean air supply, etc., and never go home sick from their work.

Regards,

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

August 10, 2008

Q. On a similar note, I was just wondering if anyone knows if the same bad fumes/chemicals are given off galv. metal if it's being heated up by a wood fire... or does it only happen at VERY high temps (i.e. when welding it)

Thanks

Ben

ben bullen
- Norwich, UK


August 2008

A. Hi, Ben. A hot wood fire may be hot enough to melt zinc (420 °C). The boiling point is 907 °C, which seems hotter than a wood fire. So I would expect that the zinc would gradually vaporize off over several hours or several fires.

But the bigger difference is, if you put a zinc plated object in a fire, the worst that can happen if for that limited amount of zinc on it to vaporize, rather slowly; but when you are working as a welder, it's just one weld after another.

Regards,

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

August 15, 2008

A. Just read this and I was thinking that you all may be helped with bentonite clay. I used it whenever I may be exposed to something. There are many brands... I put it in a glass of water, stir with a wooden spoon or stick... whenever is handy (clay absorbs metal). Drink it down... (maybe 2 Tbsp. in a glass of water) have a second glass of water ready... sometimes it needs to be washed down.

Hope this helps some people.

P.S.- If you take it all the time. Get a good trace mineral and vitamin supplement as it also absorbs good metals!

Martin Cantu
tech - Mesa, Arizona

Welding: A Management Primer and Employee Training Guide


November 9, 2008

A. I welded galvanized sheet metal Thursday evening for about 1 hour and Friday morning about 1 hr. I apparently was not as well ventilated as I should have been. I went camping Friday night and awoke Saturday with problems. The longer I was awake the worse I felt. The headache was the worst. I drove home about noon. A 1 hour trip and I barely got home before vomiting. I tried to take a nap, but had a fitful rest with shaking and nausea. It's Sunday and I still feel bad, but not compared to Saturday.
This information is from a yahoo search I did on heavy metal toxicity.
www.lifeextensionvitamins.com/hemeto.html:

There are 35 metals that concern us because of occupational or residential exposure; 23 of these are the heavy elements or "heavy metals": antimony, arsenic, bismuth, cadmium, cerium, chromium, cobalt, copper, gallium, gold, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, platinum, silver, tellurium, thallium, tin, uranium, vanadium, and zinc (Glanze 1996). Interestingly, small amounts of these elements are common in our environment and diet and are actually necessary for good health, but large amounts of any of them may cause acute or chronic toxicity (poisoning). Heavy metal toxicity can result in damaged or reduced mental and central nervous function, lower energy levels, and damage to blood composition, lungs, kidneys, liver, and other vital organs. Long-term exposure may result in slowly progressing physical, muscular, and neurological degenerative processes that mimic Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis. Allergies are not uncommon and repeated long-term contact with some metals or their compounds may even cause cancer (International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre 1999).
As a rule, acute poisoning is more likely to result from inhalation or skin contact of dust, fumes or vapors, or materials in the workplace. However, lesser levels of contamination may occur in residential settings, particularly in older homes with lead paint or old plumbing (International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre 1999). The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR) in Atlanta, Georgia, (a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) was established by congressional mandate to perform specific functions concerning adverse human health effects and diminished quality of life associated with exposure to hazardous substances. The ASTDR is responsible for assessment of waste sites and providing health information concerning hazardous substances, response to emergency release situations, and education and training concerning hazardous substances (ASTDR Mission Statement, November 7, 2001). In cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the ASTDR has compiled a Priority List for 2001 called the "Top 20 Hazardous Substances." The heavy metals arsenic (1), lead (2), mercury (3), and cadmium (7) appear on this list.
Cadmium. Cadmium is a byproduct of the mining and smelting of lead and zinc and is number 7 on ASTDR's "Top 20 list." It is used in nickel-cadmium batteries, PVC plastics, and paint pigments. It can be found in soils because insecticides, fungicides, sludge, and commercial fertilizers that use cadmium are used in agriculture. Cadmium may be found in reservoirs containing shellfish. Cigarettes also contain cadmium. Lesser-known sources of exposure are dental alloys, electroplating, motor oil, and exhaust. Inhalation accounts for 15-50% of absorption through the respiratory system; 2-7% of ingested cadmium is absorbed in the gastrointestinal system. Target organs are the liver, placenta, kidneys, lungs, brain, and bones (Roberts 1999; ASTDR ToxFAQs for Cadmium).
Cadmium. Acute exposure to cadmium generally occurs in the workplace, particularly in the manufacturing processes of batteries and color pigments used in paint and plastics, as well as in electroplating and galvanizing processes. Symptoms of acute cadmium exposure are nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and breathing difficulty.
Chronic exposure to cadmium can result in chronic obstructive lung disease, renal disease, and fragile bones. Protect children by carefully storing products containing cadmium, especially nickel-cadmium batteries. Symptoms of chronic exposure could include alopecia, anemia, arthritis, learning disorders, migraines, growth impairment, emphysema, osteoporosis, loss of taste and smell, poor appetite, and cardiovascular disease.

Matthew Blevins
- Tulsa, Oklahoma


November 10, 2008

Hi, Matthew. It does sound like you suffered metal fume fever, and I have no doubt that it feels awful. The cause is zinc fumes. You seem to be implying that galvanizing is cadmium, but galvanizing is zinc and I think there is very very little cadmium in galvanizing. letter 37394 estimates that it would be under 5 parts in a million.

Regards,

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

February 12, 2009

Many thanks for the advice. Also consider...

Cadmium occurs in some alloys. It may also be part of the coating of the welding electrode, or in other protective coatings. Cadmium can cause serious pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). Chronic effects are emphysema and kidney damage. Potential exposure to cadmium fumes warrants stringent preventative measures.

www.safework.sa.gov.au/uploaded_files/gs33i.pdf

Chris McLoughlin
- Sydney Australia


March 18, 2009

Hi,
just wondered, isn't standard MIG wire used to weld mild steel cadmium coated? It looks like it, got the same color. I rebuild classic cars as a hobby, use galv sheet because I only work part-time and need to prevent rust, so I have experienced the galv illness a few times, but recently have had feelings of chest restriction and discomfort and an intermittent ache down my arms. Had my ticker and lungs checked, but everything came up peachy in those departments. Headaches, shakes and the like also part of the scene. Just wondered...
Thanks!

Henri du Plessis
private hobbyist - Cape Town, South Africa


May 2, 2009

Q. I welded galvanized and anodized aluminum while I was pregnant, up until the 7th month. I had sickness, aches and pains, but was written off as my pregnancy. When I returned, it was just as bad or worse, and I use my paint mask, but they wouldn't reorder filters for me and I couldn't afford to buy them myself (was making $8.50/hr). Ventilation was opening the window, if it wasn't raining. I have since left the company, after moving into sales engineer, but still have lingering questions about some of the problems I still have, and what if any could have been caused by the fumes and grindings. I also had to grind a formaldehyde plastic compound, and that burned to no end. I grew up in plastics, so knew to wear a dust mask at least, but my eyes took a beating.

My daughter will be 6 this year, so I was also wondering if there should be anything to worry about there. I placed her with a family because I was only making just over minimum wage, but if there was anything that they should know about, I'd like to tell them. Some of my problems stem from refurbishing furniture also. Just curious. Thank you.

Kel

Kelle Bdeleted
- Upper Sandusky, Ohio

Handbook on the Toxicology of Metals


June 4, 2009

A. I was also a sheet-metal worker for 10 plus years and the last 4 years I have been working in a foundry . in my research into metal fume fever , I am led to believe that if you are exposed every day your body will adapt and the symptoms go away but will return after a vacation or any extended absence. Some people also seem to be sick on Monday and better the rest of the week. Hope this helps

Richard Dayton
- Beaverton, Oregon


June 15, 2010

Q. My husband is 35 years old and has welded for over 10 years. Recently he was welding in a tight area with galvanized steel. He became dizzy, disoriented, nauseated, sweats, pale, and fell down twice. They called me from work to meet him at the doctor's office. When I got there he was staggering, did not know what month or day it was. His oxygen levels were low and his lungs sounded horrible. However, he refused to get x-rays, etc, because of cost and refused to file worker's comp because everyone would lose their safety bonus! Anyway, the doctor gave him a breathing treatments until his oxygen was up to 96%, and talked him into a urine test for metal poisoning. He's been using an inhaler she prescribed four times a day, and had gotten better. (Episode was over a week ago) But tonight he began having pain just below his sternum and was having trouble breathing. He took his inhaler again and went to bed. I can hear him wheezing in bed, but I can't force him to get treatment. What could this be? I would feel so much better if he'd just have the x ray...

Jessica Stringer
- Gillette, Wyoming, USA


October 1, 2010

A. Okay let's get to the point. ALL welding fumes are bad for you if it be galv, mild steel or whatever you are welding. I have been a welder for 10+ years and at the end of a work day when I blow my nose it was black until I got an air fed mask, yes I know they can be expensive but what would you pay for a new set of lungs or to live that little bit longer? I for one would not weld ANYTHING without an air fed unit again and here in the UK good employers will provide them for you but at the end of the day you CAN afford to buy one because it's YOUR HEALTH your investing in.

Philip Blyth
- Lancaster UK

May 7, 2011

Pain below the sternum can be the symptoms of many things,
dueodenal ulcer, hiatial hernia, pancreatitis. so best advice get him checked. if he refuses to go for a test I always believe the patient will go himself for help when the pain really kicks in. hopefully they will be able to repair what's wrong !!

Rodney Coles
- Leicester, England, U.K.

December 12, 2010

Q. I am a repair jeweler and I have had problems with my health. I have a racing heart, shortness of breath, severe fatigue, nausea, feel just plain sick. I keep going to the doctor but I don't feel like they take me seriously. I have had my heart checked and it is fine just beats way too fast. No one will help me. Do you think my working with gold, silver and platinum can be why I feel so bad?

Breanna Hdeleted
- Centerton Arkansas

December 13, 2010

A. Hi, Breanna. "Working with" is an awfully vague term, although what you are doing doesn't seem to have anything to do with zinc fume fever. Do you use any cyanide-bearing chemicals in your work? If not, do you have good ventilation for your soldering? But your second opinions and third opinions should come from other doctors who actually examine you :-)

Regards,

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

December 9, 2010

A. I can't help but wonder if metal fume fever isn't caused by the multitude of other chemicals one could produce while welding. Zinc and oxygen aren't the only variables in this equation. We must also consider the other gases in our atmosphere and the type of welding that's taking place. Acetylene, propane, fluxes all become chemical factors/reagents. I'm terrible at chemistry; I wish I had more to contribute to this topic.

David Miller
- Des Moines, Iowa


January 1, 2011

Q. My husband worked for a steel company for almost 40 years. He welded galvanized steel and would come home from work sick. He is now retired but has what I believe is called "non-essential" tremors, along with several other health problems: diabetes, asthma, COPD, high blood pressure, blood disorder (takes warfarin). I often wonder if some of his health problems may be due to welding galvanized. The Drs. have said No but I wonder?

SANDRA HERT
- Billings, Montana


January 2, 2011

A. Hi, Sandra.

Go to a doctor for your health concerns, but go to a lawyer for redress of grievances.

You can certainly trust your doctor to do his best to suggest the proper treatment for your husband, regardless of what caused those problems, but you really can't expect the doctor to render an opinion on whether your husband's employment decades ago was the cause. Your doctor rightfully says to himself "I am a doctor, that's what I do, want to do, and am good at. I didn't go into this profession to be a legal witness; it's not fair of you to try to draw me into becoming one".

A lawyer will take your case if he thinks it may be winnable, and he will have contact with doctors who prefer being expert witnesses rather than general practitioners.

Regards,

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

February 17, 2011

Q. How do you get rid of the horrible taste it leaves in your mouth? When I weld on galvanized metal for a day, I taste it for two days. Thanks!

Wally Carey
- Madisonville, Tennessee, USA

March 8, 2011

Q. I have been a welder at a fencing company for the past 8 months welding nothing but galv. for 8 hours a day. Never have I felt this extremely sick before (headache from hell, shakes, vomiting, spins, can't sleep and nauseous). It's gone on for 4 days now. I have been welding for the past 4 years and am wondering if this is my past of no-to-little ventilation coming to haunt me. I'm only 19 and don't wanna be put in a grave by the time I'm 20.

Jared Frizell
- Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada,

March 7, 2011

A. Hi, Jared.

I've felt like you are describing twice in my life, and both times it was food poisoning, which can be rather dangerous. So what I am saying is that when you are feeling that badly you should see a doctor, not just assume that you are suffering from metal fume fever. Welding galvanized doesn't give you a dispensation against other illnesses, and it's risky to proceed as if every time you are sick, whatever the symptoms are, it must be from inhaling zinc fumes and can't be anything else.

That, of course, does not change the fact that you should not be inhaling those fumes. You have to have proper ventilation. Zinc is a vital nutrient, not a poison, but an overdose will make you feel terrible and may have long term bad effects. Further, you are supposed to take in your nutrients by eating and digesting them, not by slathering your lungs with them.

Regards,

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

March 8, 2011

I just returned from the doctor after taking your comment into account, turns out I was having a withdrawal from a chemical in the welding fumes. I had a faulty respirator that was letting in a miniscule amount of smoke, and then I was inhaling it all day, the doctor said had I probably received almost 20% percent higher concentrations because I was like a reverse gas mask effect, had I not been wearing anything at all it would have been better.

Jared Frizell [returning]
- Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

June 7, 2011

!! I have been a welder for about 22 year now...the past 12 as a Boilermaker. I have welded just about all those bad metals: Stainless, Chromium, Brass, Aluminum...many more. What it comes down to is good ventilation and respiratory protection.

I work in many a "confined space" and weld with a Half-Mask respirator, sometimes supplied with fresh air. A simple 3M half-mask with a P-100 2097 "pancake" filter is all ya need for welding galvanized metals. As for you younger welders just starting, get in the habit of wearing a Half-Mask, it will protect you!..keep your head out of the weld plume..and by the way I have had "metal fume fever" twice in my career to date...it's not fun...Safety is everyone's concern at work...if a company refuses to supply PPE (personal protective equipment) buy it yourself and write it off at tax time...most places allow for safety equipment right offs

Stephen MacDonald
- Vancouver BC Canada

November 30, 2011

Q. So nobody talked about MIG welding MAGNESIUM. I'm a fabricator and sometimes I work like ten feet from the guy at work that does the magnesium welding. He told me to drink milk every day he welds mag. Yesterday the evacuation hood didn't work right and I could taste and smell the smoke. Today I am home with a migraine, vomiting, the shakes, blurry vision, sore lymph nodes, weak muscles, and a low fever. My co-worker told me it was from breathing the smoke from magnesium welding. Is it going to go away by tomorrow or longer?

Christopher Rainey
- Sedro Woolley, Washington, USA


May 18, 2012

Q. I've been welding for 6 years now and never had any problems welding any copper, aluminum, iron, or lead. Haven't been sick from the fumes any at all with those metals, but every time I weld on galvanized I start having a hard time breathing, become weak and very tired, and the last two times I've welded it I've gone to the ER in anaphylactic shock. I do use a np205 respirator, might cause that, and is there anything to do to lessen my chances of an ER trip?

Drew Hendry
- Collins, Mississippi, USA


May 30, 2012

Q. I am just learning of "galvanizing poisoning" or "fume fever" when my husband recently switched departments at his work and is now exposed to this. Due to poor ventilation, he came home sick today. Guess he's had this poisoning before, and not worried, but I would like to know more.

It's said to help alleviate the symptoms, milk is suggested as the calcium helps push the poisoning out.

But, he strongly dislikes the taste/texture of milk, and for those who cannot have milk/lactose intolerance my question is:

** What is an alternative to drinking milk for galvanizing poisoning?**

-any other at home remedy?
-would calcium tablets work? (aka calcium Tums)?

If anyone could answer that, I would appreciate it much, thank you.

Lorinda Goebel
- Tacoma, Washington, USA


May 30, 2012

A. Hi Lorinda.

I don't know the answer to your question as posed, but my personal position is that drinking milk is a 1950's approach to metal fume fever, and the 2012 answer is that people should never come home sick from work.

Regards,

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

June 1, 2012

A. I am 16 in the first year in my apprenticeship and currently have galvanize poisoning because someone was in a bay next to me and didn't let me know they were welding galv. This is the first time I've had galv poisoning and I usually work on galv two or three times a week. Usually I use a p3 mask and have my respirator going at the same time and it seems to work for me.

Nathandeleted
- Australia


July 11, 2012

Q. I am a Commercial diver/Welder. For the past 16 years I have welding Hot Dipped Galvanized steel at least three times a week.

8535

It never bothered me much until last week. I was in bed 4 days coughing and puking (I am lactose intolerant). That's why I am here. I need someone to recommend a cheap reliable respirator that I can use out of the water. My Superlite 27 is too heavy and awkward. I used to laugh at the newbies that only lasted a day or two, not any more! Thanks Brett

Brett Bader
- Austin Texas U.S.A.


July 16, 2012

A. I've been a full time fabricator for ten years and have welded galvanized/galvanneal for days on end and never experienced any symptoms of zinc fume fever. My main concern is the plume smells of chlorine and sulphur which could also be toxic in longterm exposure. I have experienced minor bouts of nausea while welding just from the smell, a fan behind my hood stops this immediately (no smell / no nausea). I have always been under the assumption that nickel present in alloy steels especially stainless are more dangerous and likely to cause the "nickel chills" or fume fever also associated with zinc and other heavy metal fume exposure.

Jon Purdy
- Sauquoit New York USA


November 29, 2013

A. Galvanized steel can be welded safely by avoiding breathing the fumes. It's that simple. If you see white deposits inside your shield, that is zinc oxide, and its presence says your head has been in the fume plume. Get it out! The next step is to wear a high-efficiency particulate filter. While 3M's Premium Welding Fume Respirator 06920 (Valved) is OK, be sure it's on tight and snug all around. If you do a lot of welding on galvanized steel, use a cartridge-type filter; these are better because the seal is more reliable than the 06920 which is a painter's mask style. An even better approach is to have a supplied air system such as an one that is integrated into the welding hood with a batter backpack, integral fan and filter. Other methods of moving the fumes out of the welder's breathing zone such as fans, local exhaust, downdraft tables, smoke capture welding guns, etc. are discussed in more detail in the article listed below.

While breathing zinc oxide fume will make you sick, there are no long-term health effects according to the literature. See my article http://www.sperkoengineering.com/html/articles/WeldingGalvanized.pdf for references. Zinc vaporizes under the welding arc, and when it contacts oxygen in the atmosphere, it turns to zinc oxide - the white component of the welding fume. These particles are approximately the size of bacteria, and when you inhale them, your body is fooled into thinking they are bacteria, and it goes into a "kill" mode with fever, chills, nausea, etc. described in many of the above posts. The zinc oxide is absorbed easily by the lungs and passes out through your urine within 24 hours with no long-term effects. THE ONLY WAY TO AVOID GETTING ILL FROM INHALING THE ZINC OXIDE WHEN WELDING GALVANIZED STEEL IS TO AVOID INHALING THE FUMES. SEE THE FIRST PARAGRAPH!

Powered Air Purifying Respiratory (PARP) system

While the above is true for the general population, I have encountered at least one individual who what hyper-sensitive to zinc fumes and to dermal contact with zinc oxides -- he could not walk through the shop where galvanized product was welded even if there was no welding going on. If you take the first paragraph precautions, wash your hands and face before eating and still have a reaction to zinc oxides, go to the drug store and buy some (in the sunscreen products) and put a small dab on the back of your hand and cover it with a band-aid. If you get a reaction within, you need to stay away from it.

Also, while zinc is a heavy metal, it does not accumulate in your body like some metals (lead, copper, arsenic, nickel, etc.). Zinc is actually an essential micronutrient -- you need 15 mg/day to stay healthy. One last note of precaution: The zinc used in galvanizing today is usually pretty pure, but it can have 1 to 2% naturally occurring lead in it, so not breathing the fumes and washing before eating are even more important.

Regards,

Walt

Walter Sperko
Sperko Engineering - Greensboro, North Carolina, USA


December 2, 2013

Q. Thirty years ago my husband was sent into an un-ventilated crawl space to cut a galvanized pipe with an acetylene torch. By evening I had him in the ER and he spent a week in the hospital with "chemical pneumonia" - needless to say the heavy metals collected in his glands and he's not been the same man since. My worry is that this poison may have affected our youngest child, who was conceived AFTER the accident. Recent research indicates it can be carried even to grand-children!

Alice Campbell
- North Manchester


December 2, 2013

A. Hi Alice. Very sorry to hear of this family hardship.

Which heavy metals have reportedly accumulated in his glands? I personally dislike the phrase 'heavy metals' because it obfuscates things by mixing together helpful and harmful metals into an impenetrable morass of needless dread. The heavy metals cadmium, mercury, and lead are a serious problem whereas the heavy metals tin, iron and gold are not, and most people think zinc, silver and some others are not bio-accumulative and could only be harmful in unusual circumstances (like drinking soluble silver salts). That's my current understanding, subject of course to acquiring a better education on the subject.

Maybe there were dangerous molds in that crawl space having nothing to do with galvanizing. One problem I have with this topic is that if people "oversell" the dangers of galvanizing, people may jump to the conclusion that it is the cause of their ill health, and other things causes can be ignored, sometimes dangerously.

Please reference that 'recent research' if you can. It sounds highly questionable to me against my current knowledge base.

Regards,

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

December 7, 2013

thumbsup2Dear Ted,
Thanks for your insightful response. It helped me re-think my resentment. Our doctor did not do any follow-up tests, and my husband returned to work with modifications to his duties. Subsequent doctors did order specific lab work nor did we insist on anything that isn't covered by insurance. I did look up articles on any genetic abnormalities and the research is still out on that (although it's clear that some species adapt to pollution better than others). My husband is enjoying an early retirement and we have decided to keep a positive attitude.
Thanks again for your response!

Alice Campbell
- North Manchester, Indiana, USA


December 7, 2013

A. Best wishes Alice.

Regards,

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


May 6, 2014

Q. My name is Joe, a few years ago I was welding for the first time and half way through it I noticed I was breathing the fumes. I probably welded for an hour and a half or so, but when I stopped My eyes were having a hard time adjusting. I was wearing proper eye protection, as the day went on my vision became worse, I lost my balance and had a metal taste in my mouth. The next morning I went to the hospital, they looked at my eyes and noticed when I looked side to side my right eye would stop in the middle when looking left, but my left eye would function normal. I told them I had been welding and when they seen my eyes they diagnosed me with M.S. It seems like the doctors are hung up on the eyes, the rest was in one ear and out the other. I told them that it felt like I was getting a Sinus infection the way everything was draining and how it tasted. They put me on steroids and that did nothing. On the way home my ears would not pop and was building pressure in my sinuses, I ended up going to my regular doctor and was put on antibiotics for a sinus infection and the next day the pressure was gone and my eyesight was back. I had never had a symptom of anything before I welded on that day. I have read a few articles about being misdiagnosed with M.S. while welding. Can you give some feedback on this?

Joe Kellnhofer
- Arvada, Colorado USA

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