Metal fume fever is a temporary condition with flu-like symptoms. The symptoms are fairly general, ranging from chills and fever, to fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain, and often nausea with some vomiting. Some people hallucinate and some experience convulsions in addition to the non-specific symptoms.
It happens quite quickly after inhaling zinc oxide fumes, though welders don’t always realize that this is what has happened. Galvanized steel has a thin layer of zinc on the surface, applied to make it resistant to corrosion. Because zinc melts at a lower temperature (or heat) than mild steel, during the welding process it vaporizes and turns into zinc oxide fumes.
Although mostly linked to welding or cutting galvanized metal, metal fume fever may also result after intense exposure to the fumes that result from standard mild steel welding.
Even though metal fume fever doesn’t seem to have long lasting effects, and relatively few people even bother with medical treatment, unless proper steps are taken to protect welders from smoke and fumes, they will suffer from nasty side effects.
To protect workers from zinc oxide fumes, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a legal maximum limit of zinc oxide in the air of five mg for every cubic meter of air. This is averaged over an eight-hour shift. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends the same maximum limit but over a longer period of ten-hours per day. It also has a higher short-term exposure limit of ten mg per cubic meter of air averaged over 15 minutes.
Welding Equipment That Prevents Metal Fume Fever
The most important element in any welding workshop or welding space is proper ventilation. It is important for welders, particularly those working in confined spaces, to wear approved respirators and use any other necessary personal protection welding equipment. It is also important for employees to provide effective welding smoke and fume extraction systems to protect their workers, and to help ensure their employees are educated about possible adverse effects and how to avoid them using safe work practices.
Kemper America manufactures top quality industrial welding exhaust systems that get rid of welding, cutting and grinding smoke, fumes and gases. OSHA compliant, they provide the best possible protection to welders and welding assistants during all possible welding operations.
The two main categories of welding equipment used to prevent metal fume fever and other welding-related diseases are:
- Filtration units that extract fumes and welding smoke directly from the work area and then return clean air to the workspace.
- Welding ventilation systems that are larger than filtration units, and designed to replace local exhaust equipment. These also remove polluted air and welding dust, and return fresh air to the workspace.
Kemper’s CleanAirTower is a high tech piece of welding equipment and one of the most effective welding smoke and fume extraction systems used where local extraction is inadequate or impossible to use. It functions according to the principle of displacement ventilation, getting rid of fumes, gases and dust, and then recirculating air that has been purified. One of the most notable benefits is that there is hardly any air turbulence, so dust isn’t shed over clean parts of the workshop or other welding equipment.
For more information and pricing, call Kemper America today, or speak to an online consultant.