WELDING FUMES FROM GALVANIZED METAL
A discussion started in 2001 but continuing through 20192001
Q. WHEN WELDING GALVANIZED MATERIALS, DOES THE GALVANIZE EMIT TOXIC FUMES?JEFF PHEBUS
- SARASOTA, Florida
anodizer - Idaho
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
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
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
A. From www.sperkoengineering.com/html/articles/WeldingGalvanized.pdf
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.
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
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
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" -- most of us feel that anyone ever going home sick from work is a very serious problem whether it has long term effects or not!
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 will kill you.
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
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.
4th year apprentice - Roanoke, Virginia
I just finished trying to answer that to the best of my ability, Brian. Anyone else is welcome to do so. Sorry for your troubles, and please see a doctor.
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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
A. Thanks, Steve. Agreed that no one should go home sick!
Yes, there may be some very small and variable amount of cadmium or lead or chrome or nickel or tin or other contaminants in galvanizing, but you don't need any of them for "metal fume fever" / "zinc fume fever". As mentioned, this illness is very well known and well understood. Galvanizing is not a questionable substance in the sense of things like this being unknown.
Please consider zinc to be the canary in the coal mine. If you avoid the copious zinc fumes, and you don't come home sick from zinc exposure, you don't ever need to worry about the small amount of lead or cadmium or lead or other trace exposure. Thanks again.
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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 whenever 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
- PAGE 3 LINE 1 "WELDERS SHOULD TAUGHT" SHOULD BE "WELDERS SHOULD BE TAUGHT"
- LINE 5 "THE GUMES" "THE FUMES"
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?
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
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
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 providedMichael 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.
- Costa Mesa, California
July 13, 2008
! Hi, Kevin. Everyone is welcome to their opinion, and we are most pleased to print yours.
There is a downside to claiming that something is not harmful if it is, and Sperko and others will suffer the consequences if they and their references are wrong.
But there is a downside to over-the-top claims of cancer, emphysema, and other long term damage if they're not true because they bring terrible heartache to welders and their panic-stricken spouses that it's too late and the die has been cast. People also then may talk themselves into acting as their own physician, delaying needed treatment for a different ailment than they think they have.
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 that zinc bio-accumulates? We see zinc supplements in health food stores, and lining the pharmacy shelves to help fight colds. Inhaling clouds of zinc is not the same as inhaling one small Zicam or ingesting it, of course -- I'm not saying it's not bad for you, it is! -- but zinc is an essential micronutrient, not a toxin, so the "accumulation" should be at least questioned.
In general, people try to specify appropriate materials of construction, but every single one of them poses varying degrees of downsides and 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. Remember that galvanized transmission towers that last 50, 75, even 100 years with zero maintenance in remote areas have no match, and save people and the environment from the downsides of constant painting, repair and replacement.
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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)
- Norwich, UK
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 much 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.
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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!
tech - Mesa, Arizona
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.
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.
- 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.
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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.
- Sydney Australia
March 18, 2009
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...
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.
- Upper Sandusky, Ohio
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 helpsRichard 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
A. 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 !!
- Leicester, England, U.K.
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