Metal Fume Fever
Metal Fume Fever Warning !! Please read this WHOLE Page
Good Welding Safety is 99% proactive and 1% reactive !! Plasma arc cutting on rusty steels or any other materials listed on this page can increase risks of injury due to the high pressure and volume of air mixed with smoke during the operation.
Direct Draw or forced ventilation should be use AND Personal Protective Equipment should be use with these materials as well. In addition, bystanders should be protected as well.
If these conditions arise the safest precaution is to contact your physician immediately. It is important you inform the physician about the situation as this condition is not common outside of the construction/fabrication field. There is nothing wrong with coming right out and saying "I think I contacted metal fume fever from cutting on ------- from 2:00 to 3:30 yesterday".
There are various types of welding ventilation which can be used but the number one rule of ventilation is the placement of your head in relationship to the fumes and smoke produced !
Ventilation for General Welding and Cutting
Mechanical ventilation is always best but is essential in;
a space of less than 10,000 cu ft (284 cu m) per welder.
a room having a ceiling height of less than 16 ft (5 m).
where the welding space contains partitionsor other barriers that obstruct ventilation.
Ventilation shall be at the minimum rate of 200 cu ft per minute (57 cu m) per
Hoods. Freely movable hoods or ducts are intended to be placed by the welder as near as practicable to the work being welded. These will provide a rate of airflow sufficient to maintain a velocity the direction of the hood of 100 in linear feet per minute in the zone of welding.
Ventilation in Confined Spaces.
(1) Air replacement. Ventilation is a perquisite to work in confined spaces. All welding and cutting operations in confined spaces shall be adequately ventilated to prevent the accumulation of toxic materials -or possible oxygen deficiency. This applies not only to the welder but also to helpers and other personnel in the immediate vicinity.
(2) Airline respirators. In circumstances where it is impossible to provide adequate ventilation in a confined area, airline respirators or hose masks, approved by the US Bureau of Mines, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or other government-approved testing agency, will be used for this purpose. The air should meet the standards established by Public Law 91-596, Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
(3) Self-contained units. In areas immediately hazardous to life, hose masks with blowers or self-contained breathing equipment shall be used. The breathing equipment shall be approved by the US Bureau of Mines or National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or other government-approved testing agency.
(4) Outside helper. Where welding operations are carried on in confined spaces and where welders and helpers are provided with hose masks, hose masks with blowers, or self-contained breathing equipment, a worker shall be stationed on the outside of such confined spaces to ensure the safety of those working within.
(5) Oxygen for ventilation. Oxygen must never be used for ventilation.
Welding Safety Information
Symptoms of Metal Fume Fever
The symptoms of are nonspecific but are generally flu like including:
Fever, chills, nausea, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and joint pains.
A sweet or metallic taste in the mouth which distorts the taste of food and cigarettes is also normally reported along with a dry or irratated throat which may lead to hoarseness.
Symptoms will normally disapppear within 24 to 48 hours, and the someone suffering from metal fume fever will usually feel well enough return to work the next day despite the fact that they may still be feeling a little bit under the weather.
It often takes 4 days to fully recover.
The exact cause of metal fume fever is not known.
The most plausible theory involves an immune reaction which occurs when inhaled metal oxide fumes injure the cells lining the airways.
This is thought to modify proteins in the lung. The modified proteins are then absorbed into the bloodstream, where they act as allergens.
Physical examination findings vary among persons exposed, depending largely upon the stage in the course of the syndrome during which examination occurs.
Patients may present with wheezing or crackles in the lungs. They may also have an increased white blood cell count, and urine and blood plasma zinc levels may (unsurprisingly) be elevated.
Chest X-ray findings are generally unremarkable.
Diagnosis of metal fume fever can be difficult, as the complaints are nonspecific and resemble a number of other common illnesses.
When respiratory symptoms are prominent, metal fume fever may be confused with acute bronchitis.
The diagnosis is based primarily upon a history of exposure to metal oxide fumes.
An interesting feature of metal fume fever involves rapid adaptation to the development of the syndrome following repeated metal oxide exposure.
Workers with a history of recurrent metal fume fever often develop a tolerance to the fumes.
This tolerance, however,is transient, and only persists through the work week.
After a weekend hiatus, the tolerance has usually disappeared.
This phenomenon of tolerance is what led to the name "Monday Fever".
Treatment of metal fume fever consists of bedrest, and symptomatic therapy (e.g. aspirin for headaches) as indicated.
The symptoms of metal fume fever are usually self-limiting, and dissipate rapidly upon removal from the source of metal fumes.
Depending on the metals involved, repeated exposure can lead to longer term illnesses such as bronchitis, pneumonia, pulmonary edema, nasal cancer and even bone damage.
Prevention of metal fume fever in workers who are at potential risk involves avoidance of direct contact with potentially toxic fumes, improved engineering controls (exhaust ventilation systems), personal protective equipment (respirators), and education of workers regarding the features of the syndrome itself and proactive measures which can be taken to prevent its development. wikipedia.org
More Welding Fume Information
OSHA Office of Training and Education
Welding Health Hazards
I. CHEMICAL AGENTS
Zinc is used in large quantities in the manufacture of brass, galvanized metals, and various other alloys. Inhalation of zinc oxide fumes can occur when welding or cutting on zinc-coated metals. Exposure to these fumes is known to cause metal fume fever. Symptoms of metal fume fever are very similar to those of common influenza. They include fever (rarely exceeding 102o F), chills, nausea, dryness of the throat, cough, fatigue, and general weakness and aching of the head and body. The victim may sweat profusely for a few hours, after which the body temperature begins to return to normal. The symptoms of metal fume fever have rarely, if ever, lasted beyond 24 hours. The subject can then appear to be more susceptible to the onset of this condition on Mondays or on weekdays following a holiday than they are on other days.
Cadmium is used frequently as a rust-preventive coating on steel and also as an alloying element. Acute exposures to high concentrations or cadmium fumes can produce severe lung irritation, pulmonary edema, and in some cases, death. Long-term exposure to low levels of cadmium in air can result in emphysema (a disease affecting the ability of the lung to absorb oxygen) and can damage the kidneys. Cadmium is classified by OSHA, NIOSH, and EPA as a potential human carcinogen.
Beryllium is sometimes used as a alloying element with copper and other base metals. Acute exposure to high concentrations of beryllium can result in chemical pneumonia. Long-term exposure can result in shortness of breath, chronic cough, and significant weight loss, accompanied by fatigue and general weakness.
Iron is the principal alloying element in steel manufacture. During the welding process, iron oxide fumes arise from both the base metal and the electrode. The primary acute effect of this exposure is irritation of nasal passages, throat, and lungs. Although long-term exposure to iron oxide fumes may result in iron pigmentation of the lungs, most authorities agree that these iron deposits in the lung are not dangerous.
Mercury compounds are used to coat metals to prevent rust or inhibit foliage growth (marine paints). Under the intense heat of the arc or gas flame, mercury vapors will be produced. Exposure to these vapors may produce stomach pain, diarrhea, kidney damage, or respiratory failure. Long-term exposure may produce tremors, emotional instability, and hearing damage.
The welding and cutting of lead-bearing alloys or metals whose surfaces have been painted with lead-based paint can generate lead oxide fumes. Inhalation and ingestion of lead oxide fumes and other lead compounds will cause lead poisoning. Symptoms include metallic taste in the mouth, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal cramps, and insomnia. In time, anemia and general weakness, chiefly in the muscles of the wrists, develop. Lead adversely affects the brain, central nervous system, circulatory system, reproductive system, kidneys, and muscles.
Fluoride compounds are found in the coatings of several types of fluxes used in welding. Exposure to these fluxes may irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Repeated exposure to high concentrations of fluorides in air over a long period may cause pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) and bone damage. Exposure to fluoride dusts and fumes has also produced skin rashes.
CHLORINATED HYDROCARBON SOLVENTS
Various chlorinated hydrocarbons are used in degreasing or other cleaning operations. The vapors of these solvents are a concern in welding and cutting because the heat and ultraviolet radiation from the arc will decompose the vapors and form highly toxic and irritating phosgene gas. (See Phosgene.)
Phosgene is formed by decomposition of chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents by ultraviolet radiation. It reacts with moisture in the lungs to produce hydrogen chloride, which in turn destroys lung tissue. For this reason, any use of chlorinated solvents should be well away from welding operations or any operation in which ultraviolet radiation or intense heat is generated.
Carbon monoxide is a gas usually formed by the incomplete combustion of various fuels. Welding and cutting may produce significant amounts of carbon monoxide. In addition, welding operations that use carbon dioxide as the inert gas shield may produce hazardous concentrations of carbon monoxide in poorly ventilated areas. This is caused by a "breakdown" of shielding gas. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless and cannot be readily detected by the senses. Common symptoms of overexposure include pounding of the heart, a dull headache, flashes before the eyes, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and nausea.
Ozone (O3) is produced by ultraviolet light from the welding arc. Ozone is produced in greater quantities by gas metal arc welding (GMAW or short-arc), gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW or heli-arc), and plasma arc cutting. Ozone is a highly active form of oxygen and can cause great irritation to all mucous membranes. Symptoms of ozone exposure include headache, chest pain, and dryness of the upper respiratory tract. Excessive exposure can cause fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Both nitrogen dioxide and ozone are thought to have long-term effects on the lungs.
The ultraviolet light of the arc can produce nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2), from the nitrogen (N) and oxygen (O2) in the air. Nitrogen oxides are produced by gas metal arc welding (GMAW or short-arc), gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW or heli-arc), and plasma arc cutting. Even greater quantities are formed if the shielding gas contains nitrogen. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), one of the oxides formed, has the greatest health effect. This gas is irritating to the eyes, nose and throat but dangerous concentrations can be inhaled without any immediate discomfort. High concentrations can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, and fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema).