Welding is a risky work that predetermines much caution. Welders who are daily involved in Stick, MIG, TIG, plasma cutting, and grinding, among others, may be easily exposed to UV/IR radiation and toxic fumes.
The danger especially comes from manganese fumes, as they may harm the breathing system, then the brain, and lead to many severe diseases, including Parkinson’s. Let’s briefly cover this phenomenon and figure out how to prevent manganese poisoning.
Parkinsonism Resulting from Welding
Parkinsonism is the umbrella term for a health condition that leads to abnormal movements commonly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A person may experience muscle stiffness and tremors while moving, among other symptoms.
This health condition is primarily caused by many factors, including genetic predisposition, an environment where one lives, brain damages, and certain medication intake. Nevertheless, parkinsonism may be found in welders as well who inhale manganese daily. So, what is this notorious manganese?
One study dedicated to learning more about the connection between manganese and welding was performed by Dr. Brad A. Racette, a researcher from the American Academy of Neurology, and his colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine.
They surveyed around 886 workers from shipyards and machinery factories and then offered them to undergo neurological screening. 398 of them have been chosen for a long-term trial to find out their health conditions when being exposed to manganese.
The research also found that each milligram of manganese a worker has been exposed to added around 0.24 points to the Parkinsonism movement scale. In short, it step-by-step led to the first abnormalities in their movements. The research confirmed that prolonged exposure to manganese fumes resulted in manganism, or else called a parkinsonian syndrome.
The researchers also evaluated other factors resulting in deteriorated movements among workers, including their possible alcohol abuse, smoking, and pesticide exposure. Still, the results with or without those factors remained the same. There was a visible link between manganese poisoning obtained during welding and parkinsonism thereafter.
It’s worth mentioning that those workers with manganism have had different symptoms such as slow movement in arms, speech troubles, and reduced facial expressions.
Workers involved in flux core arc welding have been found to demonstrate the highest scores of acquisition of parkinsonism. Nevertheless, all the findings reported during a 10-years trial were suggested to be studied alongside other effects of harmful metals one faces in welding.
How to Minimize Risks Caused by Manganese?
The research has been followed by many considerations on how to reduce such risks. For instance, the most obvious recommendation was to reduce overall weld fume exposures. It could also prevent welders from inhaling such chemicals as nickel, beryllium, and other heavy metals.
Regarding robotic welding, it’s recommended to keep weld smoke out of the facility air – you might say it’s logical. Nevertheless, weld cells should be kept separately from the area where welders work, and the facility should be equipped with a dust collection system or air filtration system, which collects weld smoke and returns it clean.
If speaking of manual welding, the facilities should also have source capture systems like fume guns, arms, backdraft as well as sidedraft tables.
Then, the manufacturers should spend more time on determining daily exposure levels. It concerns both the general areas and areas where welding works are performed. To proceed with measurements, there should be dust concentration meters set up across the facility.
Additional protection may be achieved by using respiratory protective masks. They help when all the above-mentioned protections are used but are not sufficient enough. The manufacturer should itself recommend the type of respirator based on the obtained measurements of manganese exposure levels.
For instance, disposable protective masks or half-mask respirators with designated filters might be an excellent choice for exposures that do not exceed 10 times the standard.
When there are higher concentrations, a welder might need full-facepiece respirators with filters. And, where the exposure levels are linked to the greatest danger, it’s necessary to use a self-contained breathing apparatus.
Last but not least, welders who are involved in professional welding applications, as well as DIYers, should carefully choose designated welding helmets. The standards for making helmets already dictate protections against all possible fumes, radiation, and heavy metals. When choosing one, ensure it may protect you against manganese exposures.
In case you started experiencing abnormal movements, tremors, or other symptoms that are uncommon during welding applications, immediately address this concern to your healthcare provider.
How to Treat Parkinsonism?
Note, this disease is hard to approach, and not all treatment protocols respond well. The efficacy of treatment will depend on the presence of other diseases in your system.
Beyond that, the result of treatment may be linked only to minimizing the symptoms and maintaining your normal movements. To achieve the highest therapeutic effect, a doctor may occasionally recommend going for physical and/or occupational therapy to make one’s muscles stronger.
The Bottom Line
Manganese, parkinsonism, welding are all related terms based on the research. If you’re involved in welding applications, caution and safety standards should be present at all times. It concerns air filtration, manganese exposure meters, and respirators that may somehow minimize the risks of inhaling all the heavy metals during work.
If you experience any symptoms of the disease, ensure you consult your doctor and start your treatment immediately. We wish you only safe welding applications and good-quality protective equipment that will boost your productivity but save your health and breathing system as well!