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Non-confirmed health hazard


My husband was sent into a non-ventilated crawl space to cut galvanized pipe with an acetylene torch. By 10 pm that same night he was in the ER with chemical pneumonia. He was never the same. Today, 20 years later, he has a combination of health problems, but no proof that they are any direct result of the exposure to the gas released (cyanide?) when he cut that pipe with that torch.

Alice Ann (Rohrer) Campbell
- North Manchester, Indiana, USA

There would certainly be no cyanide released from torching a galvanized pipe, and if there were, cyanide tends to be an acute poison rather than a chronic poison. It's vaguely possible that the coating was cadmium plating rather than galvanizing, so you might want to look up the health effects of cadmium. Cadmium poisoning does tend to be chronic, like lead or mercury poisoning.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Torch cutting galvanized metal in an enclosed space is a 100% guaranteed heavy metal poisoning from the zinc. How much the body was affected would be dependent on the amount of zinc that was vaporized, the duration of the exposure and the amount of airflow (turnover) in the confined space. Everyone has a different tolerance to it, so two people in the same area might vary from hospitalization to just a nasty headache.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

If cutting galvanized pipe is hazardous, would heating it also be hazardous? I was going to heat a galvanized pipe to around 300 degrees and heard about this and thought I should investigate it first.

Steve Perry
- Fort Worth, Texas

300 degrees is not very hot; the zinc plated bolts and other under-hood components on your car get hotter than that. But everything is relative and I wouldn't do anything in a confined space without ventilation.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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