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Sick from welding galvanized steel

! I've been a Welder for over 20 years. I used to do shop fabrication, welding galvanized pipes, making railings, almost weekly for a couple years in my very early 20's. I NEVER used any type of mask for protection cause my boss never warned me to do so and welding never bothered me.

After a couple of years I started getting body spasms after inhaling the galvanised gas after I get home from work and it use to lay me out floored for a couple hours every time. I brought this to my bosses attention and he told me to drink lots of milk. I did notice it worked and since then I was very cautious when welding galvanize materials and try to wear respirator as much as possible. Nowadays if I don't do so I get ill feeling very quickly after inhaling the galvanized gas. I also have widespread body pain but I'm not sure if it's due to the welding.

My bottom line advice: wear respiratory protection while welding; I don't think our Maker intended humans to inhale poisonous gases for a living.

Will Beaman
- Honolulu Hawaii
January 30, 2021

"Welding Zinc Coated Steels"
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A. As a sailor in the late 70's our ship was drydocked for SLEP. We cut up a galvanized potable water tank. No experience. On 3 separate occasions we suffered from metal fume fever (MFF). No clue as to why. After the 3rd time we found ourselves in front of the Captain, explaining how we got in this position. Some stripes were lost. We were just following orders.
Long term effects, I don't know, but I suffer from extreme fatigue, and fibromyalgia. I don't know. Coincidence? All I know is that the VA doesn't believe it comes from MFF. But they don't care about us, it's all in my head they say. Psychosomatic.
Time will tell.

Donavon Ashpole Jr
- Pocahontas Arkansas
June 13, 2021

"Welding: A Management Primer and Employee Training Guide" from Abe Books
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A. Hi Will. Sorry you've endured this. There is no question that inhaling a large amount of zinc fumes causes Metal Fume Fever (MFF) with flu-like symptoms which last at least a couple of days. Whether this can have long-term effects is debated on this page, as is the question of whether some more unusual symptoms can also be caused by it. But this page is, of course, just anecdotal, and no substitute for proper epidemiological studies; and anyone who doesn't feel well should be seen by medical professionals rather than self-diagnosing based on internet rumors :-) But I personally think there are two strong takeaways that shouldn't be lost in the quagmire: 1. People should not be coming home sick from work! This isn't the 1800's anymore. It shouldn't be a matter of how sick, it should be a matter of not sick from work at all, ever. 2. People should not be inhaling anything but clean air. Workers shouldn't need to prove that the material they are welding is galvanized and will produce zinc fumes ... rather, all welding smoke should be considered a problem and should not be inhaled.

Luck & Regards,

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

A. Hi,
I've been involved in the welding and steel erection industry since 1978 as an Iron worker and as an AWS certified welding inspector since 2007. I've welded on galvanized structural parts many times and have suffered from fume exposure at least a dozen times. The symptoms start shortly after exposure with a bad taste and a 'coating' in your throat, then a weakness in your chest. Shortly after that you begin to get chills, fever and flu-like symptoms. I would feel so weak that I would crawl into bed and cover up. Usually after approximately 3 hours, I would wake up and the bed sheets would be soaked with perspiration. This is your body ridding itself of the poison that entered the bloodstream from inhalation of the zinc oxide

John Ledbetter
Journeyman Ironworker/Certified Welding Inspector - Tuscaloosa Alabama
March 5, 2022

A. Yeah hi. My name is Gerd a hobby home welder and fascinated of the trade. Personally I would like to add on to your findings of welding galvanized that my cousin and later my TAFE (technical and further education) teacher always strongly advised grinding the galvanizing off before welding the objects. Since it has been a few years that will done some of it and looking at my weathered job that apart from grinding off too much for decent welding it has also commenced to rust on other places as well ... weird?

Gerd Angermann
- Townsville Qld. Australia
September 30, 2022

A. I have welded galvanized from time to time since I was 16 years old till now 64. Have a lot of arthritis in my old age Wear a mask and take all precautions when welding; sometimes I think it's worse than smoking and I have never smoked.

Phillip Neff
- Burlington Iowa
January 16, 2023

Q. Mine is a comment. does anyone have a copy of the welder's handbook or any documented material where it was the norm to issue rations of milk to welders? All I get to read are personal experiences recounted and what was narrated. Thank you.

Gloria Ayodeji-Fapohunda
HES Specialist - Port Hacourt, Nigeria
August 28, 2021

A. Hi Gloria. You can search and, with a lot of patience, perhaps find such a citation but, sorry, I don't know offhand any book that made the claim.

You can also search and see that there is plenty of research on metal fume fever but 95% or more of it is behind paywalls; still the abstracts of a couple of the articles claim that there is no evidence that drinking milk helps.

Luck & Regards,

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

⇩ Closely related postings, oldest first ⇩

Q. My husband was working at a plant not far from our home, he was welding galvanized steel and now he is real sick, he is coughing up a white milky film and can hardly breathe, his throat is sore, and he is wheezing and running a fever. Are these symptoms of galvanized poison? I know that his employer should have supplied respiratory masks. What can we do to prevent other people at this plant from getting sick? We have only been married for less than three months, how dangerous is this?

Stephanie Shafer
- Shubert, Nebraska

A. A relatively simple but not cheap blood test can tell very quickly.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

A. According to the American Welding Society (, who publish an excellent on-line fact sheet (number 25) on metal fume fever:

"...the symptoms of the illness are headaches, fever, chills, muscle aches, thirst, nausea, vomiting, chest soreness, fatigue, gastrointestinal pain, weakness and tiredness. The symptoms usually start several hours after exposure and the attack may last between 6 and 24 hours. Complete recovery generally occurs without intervention after 24-48 hours. Metal fume fever is more likely to occur after a period away from the job (after weekends or vacations). High levels of exposure may cause a metallic or sweet taste in the mouth, dry and irritated throat, thirst and coughing at the time of exposure. Several hours after exposure, a low grade fever (seldom higher than 102 °F). Then comes sweating and chills before the temperature returns to normal in 1-4 hours. If you encounter these symptoms, contact a physician and have a medical examination. There is no information on long term exposure to zinc oxide fumes."

If these symptoms are what your husband has, he must see a physician as soon as possible; once his illness has been diagnosed, let OSHA take it on board. Respirators should only be used as a second rate substitute for local exhaust ventilation and when local exhaust ventilation (LEV) is not feasible or practicable.

I hope this helps you get to the bottom of your problem.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK

Q. I weld and burn (with a torch) and lot of galvanized metal at work. Inhaling the fumes can give you galvanized poisoning for a short time but are there any long term effects? Does the zinc or lead do any damage to the internal organs such as lungs, liver, brain cells etc?


Tom DeRubeis
- Howell, Michigan

Q. I have Galvanize poisoning right now. I own a small fabrication shop and did a small job yesterday that involved welding heavily galvanized parts. I ground off all surface galvanizing. During welding (10-20 min) I noticed that the material was still holding traces of galvanizing. I kept my head out of the smoke as I have done on these types of jobs over the last 15 years. This particular part was heavily galvanized with very high quality stuff. Within 3 hours I was totally incapacitated, vomiting constantly and unable to hold down any fluids. I have an extremely dry throat, chills, and slight fever. It's been about 16 hours since it started and I'm feeling better.

I remember being told by a welding instructor that calcium helps with symptoms. Is this true? And what are the long term health effects?

Peter VanBogart
self employed - Seattle, Washington

A. I have not heard anything about calcium specifically, but have been told of many shop welders who keep multiple gallons of milk in a fridge on site. This would make sense about the calcium. Also, although I have not seen it myself, I was also told by multiple people the this is written in the Welders Handbook. Lots of milk is the only way to get the poison out of your body. Also, that when exposed enough, it displaces the minerals and nutrients in your blood stream because it is a heavy metal and will stay in your system until it is forced out. I've been sick for three weeks from this and just started drinking lots of whole milk last week and am feeling much better but not all the way yet.

Jason Dovel
- Martinez, California

A. Yes whole vitamin D milk, I was taught this by a old fashioned master welder. WE would start drinking the milk 1 hour before we would do a galvanized job and drink at least a gallon after and I have to admit it is not some old wives' tale, it worked. as the only large welding repair & machine shop in the county back in the 70's we got to work on everything and hated to do galvanized.

W. R. Loutzenheiser
- Hastings, Nebraska

A. Yes, drinking Milk before and after burning galvanized will help prevent sickness.

C Barr
- Lafayette indiana
September 12, 2010

Q. My name is Shannon Hunter and I'm married to a Union Iron Worker who has suffered, from time to time, with this "galvanized poisoning". He gets shivering cold, then hot, chest pains, vomiting, puffy blood-shot eyes... He tells me not to worry, that it's common in welders. I'd like to know if there are any long term effects or concerns I can share with him. He's currently been welding galvanized steel in a non-ventilated space. Also, is there any reading material I can purchase?


Shannon Hunter
- Frederick, Maryland

A. Shannon, this is an okay place for people to ask introductory questions about fume fever or galvanize poisoning in an effort to help people avoid work situations that might cause it. But when we get to an actual person who is sick, they need to consult a doctor, not metal finishers.

If you search this site with the terms "fume fever" or "galvanize poisoning" you'll find a number of similar inquiries, such as threads 8535, 13244, 31254, 32872, and references on where to look for additional reading material. But the main point is: please get your husband to a doctor.

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

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Q. I am a self employed engineer who does a lot of aluminum and galvanised plate welding. When I have done a lot of welding particularly galvanised material I get what has been described as zinc chills (uncontrollable shaking) migraine headaches, sore joints ... my question is, is this accumulative and am I putting myself in real danger, and can this be treated? Thank you!

Shaun Barrer
- Brightwater, New Zealand

A. I think everybody knows long term effects of overexposure to lead is deadly, why gov. or welding agencies don't say that is beyond me. I'm online researching and finding a respirator to buy for myself and modify my extra hood to accommodate it. A build up of any chemical over time cannot be deemed as healthy or okay.

James Sneed
- Wolftown, Virginia


Vivian Godsey
spotwelding - Dayton, Tennessee

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Q. I work in a stamping plant, running a spot welder. I weld galvanized steel and come home sick every time I do. The ventilation in my plant is not so good, and we are told that there are no fumes that will harm us! I don't believe them, and was wondering if welding this causes poisonous fumes.

K Geiger
Stamping Plant - Westland, Michigan

A. Hi, K.

You know that the ventilation is poor and that you are inhaling these fumes and that you are coming home sick :-(
To the question of whether there are any long term effects: at present most people apparently don't think so ... but that's not assurance that they are right nor that they won't change their minds. I think it's irrelevant because short term sickness is completely unacceptable.

Trying to help people and their loved ones sleep better by reassuring them that they are probably not going to die from something is one thing; but trying to justify short term sickness on the basis that there probably are no long term effects is absolutely ludicrous. Regards,

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

Q. I have recently found I have some joint pain in my left hand today some in my right . never had that before . the only thing I can figure , I was welding a small amount of galvanized pipes together. I have got sick from that before , many years ago. So I have learned how to avoid it now but was out side and tried to stay away from it. Its the only symptom I have but its the only think I can attribute it to. It's like severe arthritis but it came on all at once, kinda weird hope it goes away soon. Any help you can give would ease my mind, Thank You.

Greg Holk
- Everett, Washington


July 9, 2008

A. I have been a welder for 36 years, I have gotten sick to very sick from welding galvanized steel. I weld or cut galvanized steel almost every week, I try to stay out of the cloud of smoke when I can, since most of my work is on galvanized traffic poles it is outside and I don't usually have any effects.

When I am in an enclosed area I use a fresh air hood. I have gotten the MSDS sheets from the company in Canton Ohio who does the galvanizing and they say there is no proof of long term exposure. I wonder if the many aches and headaches are from this or other exposure to the many fumes that come from welding.

You should avoid as much exposure as possible to any fumes. Workers are exposed to many dangers, you are the most responsible for your life and safety, if you choose not to be careful and insist on safe working conditions you will be the one that pays the price. How much is your health worth?

Tom Shannon
mobile welding - Mantua Ohio
August 15, 2008

thumbs up signHi, Tom. Your posting is very sound advice indeed! I don't think that aches and headaches that come weeks later are due to the welding (everybody has aches of various sorts at various times). But I certainly don't know it for sure, and I don't believe that anybody really knows.

If you think about pharmaceutical studies, there are all sorts of placebo effects. So much so that nobody ever even attempts a clinical test except 'double blind', where neither the patient nor the doctor knows whether they are getting the real stuff or an inert pill. Separating how you feel based on actual assaults on your body from how you feel based on your mind is simply impossible.

So I think it will be a very long time before we know whether there are long term effects, and the right course is to simply say you're not supposed to get sick from your work! If you do so repeatedly, it's probably possible that there are long term effects.

Luck and Regards,

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
August 18, 2008

Q. I started welding about 2 weeks ago with my school. The rooms are very well ventilated and there's even a system overhead that sucks up the smoke. I try to keep my head away from the fumes but still since I started welding I've been waking up during the night with migraines. I do have air conditioning while I sleep and also Have a chronic Panic disorder but the migraines only started when I started welding. I would imagine that they could all be a factor but I'm wondering if the migraines are caused from inhaling excessive fumes.

Jessi-Lee B. [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Student - Cowansville Quebec, Canada
September 10, 2008

A. Hi, Jessi-Lee. Assuming that the migraines are instigated by the welding, it seems more likely that the light is the cause rather than the fumes. Sorry, this opinion is based on zero applicable experience or training, and nothing but wild guess though :-)


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

Q. Hello all, My name is Dale. I graduated High school in June 16th, 1968. Went into the Service AF in Feb 1969. I went to an AFB for training in metals processing. I was trained as a Welder, in various processes to include Super Alloys. I was welding during the years of 70 to 72. During these years I welded Galvanized metals. I was welding in an enclosed area in a metal building one year and we were told that we needed at least a quart of milk for each hour you weld. We received no milk or anything for the three hours.

"The Merck Manual"
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I then have had various instances of the recurring problem. And ending up in the hospital every time for at least 2 weeks. I've tried to access my records several times to no avail. One time I threw up this bright green crap, bad headaches and passing out.

My SSgt wouldn't let me go to the Dispensary till my friend Jim put his fist through the door and opened it. Then after trying to stay away from welding for about 8 years. I was offered a job welding race cars, which I turned down. And started working for a Temp agency and ended up working in stores and they asked if I knew anyone who had welding experience and wanted to weld Laser tubes. I said it's been a while but I give it a try the money was good. In the mean time I was welding, mind you, back then no ventilation fans, etc. And was asked to weld something and Charlie my lead told me what to use and we were right next to cleaning tank with Tricloroethylene, and MEK / methyl ethyl ketone for cleaning. Needless to say after welding it and back to the Laser tubes I started getting a feeling like someone was standing on my chest, and headaches. I tried to make it up the stairs from the shop and couldn't and wound up in the Hospital for another two weeks. Can you explain that? Needless to say everything is now well ventilated and fans and hoses on the welding helmets and masks for goggles at that company. I haven't welded since but have a hard time taking zinc vitamins or anything related to it, and have plural Neuropathy. Nerves that are causing numbness and loss of feeling in my feet and problems with my arms and hands. And nerves that are losing sensitivity. Eyes are blurring, Ocular migraines. And the VA doctor says I'm experiencing Bipolar effects. Any ideas there?
Thanks Dale

Dale Jones
was a Welder - Barstow California
May 19, 2009

Q. Hello, was trying to find out earlier what the symptoms of Galvanize Poisoning was. You all have been very helpful and I will be going to the one site to find a copy of the MSDS on this subject.

I had no choice but to weld Kindorf to heavily galvanized deck flashing today after it was in place. I believe the only symptoms I have at the moment are the puffy and irritated eyes (but that may also be to blame from the fiberglass in the air and massive sweat pouring in my eyes).

Thank you very much. And for many of the complaints above, if you cannot remedy the situation of poor ventilation (I have a box fan 2 feet from my weld) or not being able to grind the galvanize off the surface first (you will see metal sparks from the grinder when it is gone and you hit the steel (galvanize does not have sparks), I would suggest you call OSHA or the Labor & Relations Dept. in your areas. You need to report Unsafe working conditions. In my case, I have a Union that I can also go to for assistance when I need (I am an IBEW Electrician/Welder)

And you always have the option to refuse to do the task if it is unsafe. IF you get fired for it, you CAN sue their ass and win back pay PLUS compensation for working in the hazardous situation prior.

James [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Baltimore, Maryland
August 18, 2009

A. I had MFF or "Zinc Chills" as we call it here in the UK. It's a bit like Malaria. The fever comes on some time after exposure to the zinc oxide and ebbs and rises for some time until it finally eases. It's consequently cyclical in its acute phase. You are SUPPOSED to have exhaust fume extraction at the point of welding to eliminate the risk of this illness, but so many plants still don't bother. My exposure was due to welding galvanized steel some 30 years ago; the process threw up fine, whispy, airborne threads of white zinc oxide which you couldn't help but inhale. In those days health & safety at work were a joke. No way is drinking milk going to protect your lungs; it might suppress the symptoms but that's about all. Today, 30 years on, I have uncontrollable muscle tremors and have to continually clear my throat as I still produce far too much phlegm as a reaction.

Is this due to zinc oxide poisoning from 30 years ago? I still have no idea, but it would not surprise me one iota. You need to be very careful with galvanized metal.

Mike Leguit
- London, UK
February 21, 2010

A. Please, please: if your employer doesn't provide a respirator, get one yourself! They're only around $30-40 for a good half-mask version that uses cartridges. Don't know about you, but I'd rather spend $40 than get sick all the time. MUCH cheaper than going to the doctor!

And a fan to blow the fumes away from you.

Scott Willis
- Duvall, Washington

Q. My husband has been having symptoms for over six months and is still working at the machine shop where he is a tool & die maker. It started with eye conjunctivitis in December. From March to June, he has been to six doctors, most of which said they didn't know what was wrong with him. He is now seeing an occupational medicine doctor and he told him he had a very severe allergy to the metal fumes in his shop. His nose is completely filled and is now in his lungs. He also has swelling in his arms (twice their normal size) and lumps on his head. He is unable to go to the restroom, loss of appetite, cannot sleep due to the pain, can't lift his arms, etc. He is still trying to get the correct treatment from this most recent doctor. He misses at least one day of work per week. He is now in so much pain and has endured it for months that he doesn't feel his job is worth it & will be quitting.

Teresa Thompson
Machine shop employee - Panama City Beach, Florida, USA
June 24, 2010

Q. My husband is a welder and I afraid he start getting sick, I would appreciate someone tell me what vitamins he needs to take and other food that can help him to maintain his body strength while he works as a welder,
Thanks so much

Edith Trevino
welder's wife - Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
August 15, 2010

Q. My son is a MIG welder in a factory. He welds 5-6 days per week for a year. His symptoms are weakness, extreme tiredness, easily falls asleep most anytime and often sleeps on his breaks/lunch at work, sleeps a lot at home, pain in joints, now has a lump under his arm, severe migraines, no endurance, sometimes almost passes out, sometimes chills and fever. He and his wife note that his sweat has a strange odor described as vinegar-like. He gobbles Excedrin trying to reduce the headaches and pain. This week he missed one day work as he was in the hospital for diagnosis (company insurance will NOT pay), and the 4th consecutive day he has not welded, he says he feels great and that this is the best he has felt in months. I know the government used IV chelation therapy decades ago to remove heavy metal poisoning. Unfortunately unemployment is very high here and there are no jobs available period, and his welding is the highest paid job in this area. He cannot afford to quit, but he cannot afford to kill himself either.

Ray James
- Paragould, Arkansas, USA
September 5, 2010

!! My husband had been a professional welder for 18 years before being diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2002, age 44 from welding galvanized steel, painted plow blades and so forth at work. At that time no one wore respirators. He use to tell me about the galvanized fume poisoning he had gotten a few times over the years of welding. All the symptoms listed above from many of the responses. He had the surgery to remove his kidney and has been cancer free ever since. He however, does not weld anymore. Short term symptoms are listed above from everyone, but long term effects can cause cancer. Kidney cancer is one that the zinc chromite/ hexavalent chromium collects in the kidneys over time and lengthy exposure. It is a slow growing cancer and you would not know it unless a cat scan or MRI was done to the mid back region. No pain until the end. My husband found it by getting a cat scan for a back injury. Cancer was a secondary find.

All of you who weld for a living should make sure you use a respirator, and not breathe in the air from the room you are welding in. Also make sure the room is ventilated well.
You should get checked out right away if you come down with any symptoms that are not normal. This is your life.

Robin Zagorodny
- Windsor Connecticut USA
April 15, 2011

!! I am a retiree (60 years old in good health) who welds and fabricates for fun. Here is my experience with metal fume disease.

One week ago I spent about two hours cutting steel plate with a plasma cutter, and then welding it with an Arc welder using 7014 rod. At the same time I also ground the surface and welded a 1946 tractor fender which had tears in the metal. I was working in the open bay door of my shop, with full open air exposure; however, there was no wind that day and I found grinding dust, fumes, etc. coming into my helmet.

At the end of the day I had a headache and sore throat. The following day I began to have thermoregulation problems with chills, fever and sweating along with pronounced muscle pain in the neck. This continued for four full days during which I felt too weak to leave bed. My large leg muscles and muscles overall ached like a bad flu case. I took 1-2 Ibuprofen and one aspirin on alternate days. I also took 2 potassium gluconate tablets to help chelate the metal effects. On the fourth day, I continued to drank fluids. For the whole week I coughed up large amounts of gritty substances. As of today (one week later), I have minor muscle pain in the neck, and a residual cough,but have regained almost normal energy levels. My guess is that the fender had heavy galvanizing that had been covered with thick paint (possibly zinc chromate based)and the welding and grinding released that material in the weld fumes.

It was a scary experience, and I will never weld without a fan and mask under those conditions again. My mistake was in not recognizing that the antique tractor had heavy galvanizing buried under paint and rust. In short, I was exposed to welding rod fumes, plasma arc gases, grinding disk rubble, zinc based galvanizing and possible heavy metal paint products, in combination it was a severe situation. P.S. I have been welding for years and have never had anything like this happen before.

Bruce Hunn
- Thompson Falls, Montana, USA
April 26, 2015

Q. I've been a welder in fabricating for roughly 22 years. I've have problems with my eyes that feel like muscle twitches. I have to close them tightly to get them to stop. I've also developed RLS while first starting my welding career. I've also welded in confined spaces like tanks and chutes which had a variety of chemicals that had leached into the stainless and carbon steel. I've only had one flash in my career; it wasn't a bad one so I don't believe that was the cause. Any insight would greatly be appreciated. And yes milk does help with galvanize poisoning. Thanks much.

Dave Biser
Sheetmetal - Baltimore, Maryland
July 23, 2015

Q. I am about to marry a man who has been welding for over 20. He recently changed jobs. At night he is having intense joint pain. He tells me it's from the fumes at work. Is there anything I can do to help with this. Also do you think detoxing would help?

Becky Lewis
- West Blocton, Alabama
August 27, 2015

A. Definitely sounds like metal fume fever. He needs to get with his employer and either have them provide adequate ventilation, or some type of respirator appropriate for the fumes produced while he's welding.

I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.

Marc Green
Marc Green
anodizer - Boise, Idaho


thumbs up signBut you do at least admit that you used to, Marc?


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

Ted, if I was THAT Mark Greene (man, that show really butchered the proper spelling of my name), I would be the one on some beach sipping foo-foo girly drinks with an umbrella in them.

Marc Green
Marc Green
anodizer - Boise, Idaho

A. Hi Becky,
You may have noticed that several posts here do not have replies. The reason is that we are not medical experts, but deal with the technical details of metal finishing operations. While all of us will know some of the hazards from operating certain processes, we certainly won't know enough in detail to help.

Your husband-to-be needs a list of all of the chemicals he has been exposed to at work and take that list to his medical practitioner so that he can be professionally assessed. I doubt anyone on this site will give you a definitive answer about the long term effects of welding in less than ideal conditions, although you might get some anecdotal evidence.

Brian Terry
Aerospace - Yeovil, Somerset, UK

! I am now 71 and worked in a fabrication shop at the age of 19-23 we had a lot of laundry machines we fabricated that were galvanised. We were told when repairing or altering the tanks not to breathe in the smoke as it was similar to what was used in World War 2, a type of phosgene which is a lung irritant.
Hope this helps

ivor miller
- southampton. england
October 19, 2015

"The Dose Makes the Poison"
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! I am commenting on the posts regarding welding of galvanized steel. My former husband, in late 1960s, worked for a steel and shipbuilding company in southern California. Whenever he'd been welding galvanized, in the holds of ships, not ventilated, he'd come home feeling sickly, and need to drink milk. Also skin was tinged with almost a jaundice affect, along with his eyes, fingernails and toenails being yellow. I haven't seen any comments of these symptoms in the posts. He is almost 70, and is still around, but wonder if the welding did compromise his health. I keep wondering if we'll be seeing the legal ads about welding galvanized steel, like we see about people who worked with asbestos, and are sick with mesothelioma and other lung diseases. He hasn't welded in a very long time, but with the symptoms these people have, this has really got to be a very toxic substance. I wonder how many older, former and current welders, are having symptoms and not know what they are attributed to?

Laurie Francil
- Durango, Colorado
May 15, 2016

Q. Hi, I just started a new job welding galvanized pipe and about a week after starting one of my teeth got abscessed and is still killing me. I went to a dentist yesterday and I got antibiotics and pain pills but it didn't help much so far, is the cause of my tooth killing me because of the galvanized pipe?

Johnny Willkie jr
- Henagar, Alabama USA
July 14, 2016

Q. My name is Larry. I'm a custom welder and fabricator in Ottawa, Canada.
Been working with a company for a few years now where welding galv. plates to rods is a part of the job.
I've asked my supervisor and the lead for a fan to assist with blowing the fumes and weld smoke away from my station but have got treated with disrespect and then questioned about my ability to weld.
Health and Safety has walked through the plant and asked the other welders along with myself if we weld galvanized metals while our boss was standing there. It was hard to be truthful in fear of losing my job so we all lied and said no.
I see many saying the there are no long term effects. And many say there are. How do I find out the truth? And any suggestions on how to let the Health and Safety of Ontario know the truth about what we weld in the poorly ventilated plant without losing my job or without being treated unfairly for speaking the truth?

Larry [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Ontario Canada
September 15, 2016

A. Hi Larry. Unventilated welding, whether galvanized or not, is bad for you. I'm fortunate that I don't have to do it. I know you'd like to clearly know the "long term effects", but the simple fact is we don't have the exacting knowledge you would like. We don't even know the effects of pharmaceutical drugs unless we make half the patients take sugar pills and keep the secret from their doctors.

Unless you can locate an interested attorney, we'll have to wait for someone from Canada to advise you the best way to get Health & Safety of Ontario to come back again after you all lied to them; but you have to tell the truth or accept the consequences of not doing so. Bemoaning that they don't come often enough for it to be convenient to be truthful won't help your problem, and please consider ...

Imagine you were working for a good boss at a better shop, trying to compete against the companies and workers of the world. Would you want Health & Safety to be coming in every second week, interrupting the work, separating you from your co-workers, lead, & boss -- accomplishing nothing but interfering with your ability to earn a living, giving your shop a huge disadvantage compared to your offshore competitors, and eventually putting you all out of work? Best of luck in your difficult situation.

Sympathy & Regards,

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

A. Salutations,

Safety is an important necessity to a good job. A brief search revealed helpful resources regarding Canadian regulations in this matter.

At the bottom of the page is also a confidential one-on-one with the organization if you feel that you can not approach anyone within the company (team lead / human resources) regarding the matter.

Hope that this helps in resolving the matter.

Erick Leong
- Buffalo Grove, Illinois, USA

A. For 30 years starting in '67 I welded on many jobs. It was before the day of much safety for wielders. Many times I had to weld galvanised steel, several times with absolutely no ventilation, and several times was sick from galvanize poisoning. I found thorough the years that if I drank milk consistently through the day it pretty much prevented it. In those days the contractor finally was required to provide it. If it were me I'd still drink milk even if other precautions are taken.

Tommie Land
Ret. Electrician/welder - Dickinson, Texas

Q. Hello my name is Oscar I am 18 years old and started to practice welding little did I realize that I was welding some galvanized steel tubing should I be concerned it was just two pieces of quarter inch by 1/8 wall. It would really help to know so I won't make the same mistake again.

Oscar Gutierrez
- Santa Ana California
December 14, 2016

Q. I have had inhalation fever many times, recently I took a zinc tablet and the usual symptoms did not happen. Am I on to something?

John Gailey
- Clifton, Idaho
March 6, 2017

"Health and Safety in Welding" from Abe Books
or Amazon
(affil links)

A. Zinc, itself, evaporates at about 1100 °F-1200 °F

There is another danger when heating zinc (or, cadmium). At certain temperatures, zinc or cadmium produce what are commonly called zinc or cadmium cobwebs. These are very lightweight masses that resemble cobwebs and float around in the air. The zinc cobwebs are bright white and the cadmium ones are dark red. Since these are the colors of the corresponding oxides, I assume that's what they are.

The only time I have seen white zinc cobwebs was when a guy was welding some very thick corrugated galvanized panels. The only time I have seen cadmium cobwebs was when I melted some big silver contact points that contained some cadmium. The red cobwebs were everywhere - in the crucible, in the mold, wrapped around the tongs, and a lot were floating in the air. I got out of the building, allowed them to settle, and then cleaned them up. I don't think I took any of them into my lungs. Both zinc and cadmium cobwebs, luckily, are quite visible.

Years later, I saw a 200X magnified photo of the zinc cobwebs in a book. They looked just like a thorn bush, with jillions of thorns on them. Evidently, if you breath them in, they stick in the lining of your lungs and cause all sorts of problems.

I was unable to find any further info on this from the internet.

Chris Owen
- Benton, Arkansas, USA

A. If you heat anything to high temperatures the fumes given off will contain more chemical compounds than ever. Welding at the high temperatures required will turn everything heated into chemical compounds and most of those are not going to be good for you especially if you inhale them. Be smart, get a fan, get a respirator. Holding your breath won't work.
Cigarette smoke has over 5000 chemical compounds in it. The cigarette has 270 some chemical compounds before burning - the burning causes those 270 chemical compounds to become the 5000. The metal you are heating to weld along with the flux from the rod, paint, galvanizing etc creates so many more toxic chemicals. All of them are bad. Bad for you, bad for your wife who does your laundry, bad for your kids who hug you in dirty clothes when you get home. I have a few friends that have symptoms from welding. Most of their symptoms are respiratory. Protect your health. No job is worth getting sick over.

J grier
Fabrication, Patination - Northern California USA

Q. How long after welding will galvanizing poisoning occur?

Brock king
- Victoria, Australia
December 5, 2017

A. Hello everyone, I know many of these comments and advice are from back in 2002, it's 2018 now and I just wanted to voice my current welding and cutting galvanized steel situation, so here it goes, I didn't know much about galvanize poisoning until a welder saw me cutting a couple of 10 inch schedule 40 zinc galvanized pipes and told me: "Hey buddy! You need to please buy a better respirator gear and as soon as you're done cutting please run to the store and buy whole milk and drink it!" I asked why, he then said cause it can be deadly and symptoms can be from a minor flu-like situation to headaches, muscle aches, red eyes, etc...
He said his brother passed due to a lot of galvanized fume exposure, so this is very serious and whole milk will give you the calcium needed to push out the poison. Hope this helps anyone, (before I leave I had bad headaches after welding & cutting galvanized so I've started the milk advice and have been good ever since.

G Cabrera
- Houston, Texas
January 30, 2018

A. I have had zinc fever many many times from doing work with arc spray equipment. You will not sleep well the first night but generally fully recovered by the second night. This will NOT kill you. Might actually be good for you if you are zinc deficient.

Chuck McCown
McCown Technology Corporation - Lake Point, Utah
February 17, 2018

A. My husband had this from a certain type pf galvanized steel. Has been 18 years, so I don't recall the exact letters and numbers of the steel. Anyway, he came home, said he had steel poisoning, and proceeded to collapse.

I gave him lots of milk to help absorb the poison and remove it from his body but also he was so sick I had to carry him (if you had ever seen us that visual would make you laugh as he is over 6 ft and I am barely 5 ft and weighed 95 lbs at the time) and put him in a hot bath ... and kept refilling the hot water for a couple hours. He felt much better after this. Hope this helps.

The hot water opens your pores and helps your body rid the toxin. It also gets excess zinc or toxins off your skin so you do not breathe in dust or flakes from clothes and gear. Put that stuff in washer or outside for a bit. Also as a bonus the hot water helps ease muscles and the chills. He had it bad and felt better within 30 min., and was 75% better in an hour or two -- then slept the rest off. We had a heated blanket so that probably helped as well. Lots of milk though.

Lisa Smith
Wife of welder - Big cabin, Oklahoma

Q. I am 16 and learning to weld, I started to weld quite a bit of 16 gauge galvanized horse fencing outside, and got sick once. What is the best system to prevent that? A powered air system? Or is a 3m half mask enough ... I don't want to end up crippled by 30.

Hunter Sykes
Student - Reno, Nevada, USA
October 23, 2018

Q. My son works at a place where they galvanize steel. I have been noticing that since he has worked there his clothing is getting a purple color to it. Sounds strange, but even our while toilet seat is now purple. Could this be caused by the galvanize poisoning?

Rosamunde Young
- SPOKANE, Washington, United States of America
February 25, 2019

A. So I was welding on a boat trailer yesterday in shop class, so my shop teacher had me go get us some milk and it did work. But I have only had a quart of milk since yesterday but it does work.

Trace Bettice
- Texas United States
May 25, 2019

A. With regards to drinking milk for zinc chills, my dad was a welder & welding instructor for may years and taught me how to weld. For zinc chills he told me drinking buttermilk works best.

Allan Everest
- Cochrane Alberta, Canada
September 19, 2019

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