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A discussion started in 2001 but continuing through 2019

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 H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- 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 :-)


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

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?

- 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.


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

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.


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

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'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.


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

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.

Nathan [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- 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.


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

Powered Air Purifying Respiratory (PARP) system

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 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!

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.



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.


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

December 7, 2013

thumbs up signDear 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 [returning]
- North Manchester, Indiana, USA

December 7, 2013

A. Best wishes Alice.


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

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

July 22, 2014

Q. I am trying to get Health & Safety up and running in my workplace. I am wanting to know and the guys are wanting to know:

What is in the galvanizing they are welding. I know about the flu symptoms, etc.

Can someone help please.

Leanne Jones
- New Zealand

July 2014

A. Hi Leanne. Galvanized material is steel that has been hot-dipped into molten zinc. The zinc sacrificially protects the steel from corrosion; so galvanizing is widely used, especially on roofs, large nuts & bolts, electrical transmission towers, and other areas where long life is needed and maintenance may be difficult.

When you weld that steel, the zinc coating on it vaporizes into the air and can be inhaled. Zinc is not toxic, in fact it is an essential nutrient, and is the ingredient in cold prevention remedies. But this vast overload of zinc, inhaled rather than ingested, definitely does cause this metal fume fever problem. Whether it has any longterm effects is more debatable, with studies over many decades saying it has no long term effects, but common sense telling us that an overdose that makes us sick, frequently repeated, may not be as innocuous as we're told.

The resolution is not to argue about longterm effects of such repeated overdoses, but to make sure they don't happen in the first place via excellent general ventilation and, if the exposure is more than de minimus, properly designed welding hoods. Good luck.


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

July 23, 2014

A. I had metal fume fever once. I had a bunch of silver oxide I was trying to bring up to metal. My workshop filled with fumes but I thought: what the hay? people put this stuff on their noses.

I came down with this acute attack of "flu." Ack. I was running to the powder room every 10 minutes for a solid day.

Either remove the Zn before welding or wear a well fitted cartridge respirator. I wouldn't wish that sickness on my worst enemy.

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York

July 23, 2014

thumbs up signThank You!! Will pass this information on.

Thanks for your time.


Leanne Jones [returning]
- Christchurch New Zealand

April 6, 2015

A. Back in the '70s I was building things using galvanized metal. I was concerned about welding fumes from the zinc.
I asked the Head Chemist at the WSDOT materials lab about the dangers of welding on galvanized metals.
He said the zinc fumes could make you very sick. However, the danger comes from the arsenic & cadmium that are associated with zinc.
And yes I had the "flu" and bad taste in my mouth.

He suggested pouring muriatic acid on the weld area to remove the galvanize. Since the acid is used for cleaning brick work it is really available at hardware stores and is cheap, too; also it is not as dangerous to handle as other acids.

It seemed to work.

David Cee
- Sun City West, Arizona USA

June 4, 2015

! My friend and I were welding on a galvanized rafting frame yesterday. We were working outside. It's worth mentioning that neither of us did this type of work during our careers, just hobby stuff. I did have several incidents of smoke filling the helmet. Last night I woke at 3am and my ankles, knees and hips were throbbing. I got up and felt funny. I had super high blood pressure and A fib. (Normally I sleep well and my BP is the lowest in the am.) Ended up at Urgent Care. After x-rays, a shot of something strong and some pills to take home, I'm vegging on the couch with a lame ankle. Tomorrow I'll be installing air to that helmet. It just goes to show that this stuff affects everyone differently ... and that you're never too old to be a dumb ass.

Mike Morgan
Retired - Tualatin Oregon USA

October 5, 2015

! I only did 16 cuts using acetylene touch on galvanized light poles today, but I'm sick as f**k. My lower intestine is entirely tangled, my bones hurt, and I feel like I need to puke & crap at the same time. My uncle is a pipe fitter/welder and told me to be careful today -- I used a mask and cut outdoors, but I still feel terrible. This is a totally for real issue, please protect yourself.

Robert Wheeler
TxDot - Austin,Texas, usa

October 17, 2015

! Scary hearing of all of the uneducated welders talking about inhaling these fumes for hours. Don't do it. If you have to weld galvanized, quit your job or get a fresh air hood. There are plenty of jobs out there where you can weld aluminum, flux core or hardwire which hasn't proven to cause metal fume fever, at least in my experience. I welded galvanized once without precaution, which was enough for me. Good luck on your journeys, welders! Take care of yourself.

Levi Ernsting
- olympia Washington

November 23, 2015

The zinc binds up metallithinone (MT). MT is a molecule in your body that binds up toxic elements like cadmium and cause them to be inert. Which normally isn't an issue, but with welders it is because of the cadmium usually breathed in due to grinding. Cadmium is the culprit in many of these problems on this page. Cadmium is from the grinding disk. Ruins the kidneys over time, as cadmium has to unbind from the MT. Half life in muscles is 30 years.

Derek Estey
- Bristol, Vermont, USA

September 16, 2016

! I was a craft welder for five years, anything from plant pot holders to TV set props, also did Chimney liners and Fire escapes - most things. Fine until I did a couple of weeks doing Candlestick holders with Galvanised pipe for an emergency order - I melted the lining in my sinus - pain and headaches - hospital for nasal clear-out. That was 20+ years ago and still suffer when I go to sleep fluid builds up and really bad when I get a cold. Do not weld the stuff!The chap that took over from me had his lung collapse so I got off lightly! Words of warning - Welding under cars wear ear plugs as spatter bounces.

Debbie Lane
- Isle of Wight England

June 23, 2017

! I was a pipefitter in the Navy aboard a Destroyer in 1953. My ship was in dry dock at North Charleston Carolina. A badly rusted frame under the boiler had to have a large section cut out and it was covered with many coats of Zinc Chromate paint.
The Navy Yard welders & cutters refused to do the job. I was ordered to crawl into a very confined area with a cutting torch and remove the section. I got very sick and remained that way for 3 days. I never smoked but have some emphysema which I believe was caused by breathing those fumes. I tried to get some disability but no luck. Thankfully I am still kicking at 86.

Linda Bedore
none - Phoenix Arizona USA

February 3, 2019

Q. I have welded galvanized steel and stainless steel for forty years and now at age 76 I am finding shortness of breath and wonder if my welding at work may have affected my lungs. Usually tig welding so close to the weld.

Bob Grant
- London, Ontario, Canada

February 2019

A. Hi Bob. Sorry for your troubles. Certainly, it's possible!

On the other hand, I'm 73 and have had emphysema for at least 30 years and never welded in my life -- but I did smoke. Did you? If yes, as responsible elders, let's be careful to not offer younger people who are still smoking any straws to clutch at :-)


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

February 6, 2019

thumbs up sign  I have never smoked but I had second hand smoke as a kid.
Thanks Ted,

Bob Grant [returning]
- London, Ontario, Canada

July 20, 2019

A. I worked for a rooftop curb manufacturer as a welder/fabricator/duct mechanic for 4 years. I welded galvanized everyday for several hours each day and I never got sick like so many here have described. This was prior to receiving formal education in welding and joining technology from an accredited school. At the time there was no proper ventilation and I wasn'€™t informed by the employer of any specific risks when welding galvanized. With that said I knew those fumes couldn'€™t be good in any amount. The company provided simple dust masks that were more so for the grounds/maintenance crew that would cut grass and weed eat around the property. I tried them at one point but found them to be more of a hindrance and far less effective than my method I'€™m about to reveal. I don'€™t mean this as an insult to anyone here but I think using common sense (considering the lack of ventilation and proper PPE) and taking certain precautions are what saved me from experiencing any of these severe issues.

Plain and simple all I did was intentional breathwork. Before beginning my welds I would purge my hood by forcefully exhaling through my mouth followed by an inhale through my nose. Then I would start welding and once my hood was full with fumes I would purge my hood again by forcefully exhaling. Once my hood was clear of fumes I would inhale. Now just alternate being sure to purge your hood each time with the exhale. I realize that to some extent you're still breathing some of the fumes but I believe it to be far less than with any simple respirator due to lack of a proper seal to your face and/or ineffective cartridges. Even with a respirator you'€™re still taking your breath from those plumes of welding fumes and I just didn'€™t trust what was available to effectively do the job.

Hope this helps someone. I will say nothing probably beats a fresh air respirator with a constant flow of air when combined with proper ventilation. That'€™s just my opinion but the best thing to do is simply avoid welding galvanized altogether if possible.

Michael Edwards
Welder/Fabricator - Augusta, Georgia United States

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