• Michael DouglasWelding: The Cancer Risk No One Thinks About

    Substantial new evidence shows welding fumes and UV radiation from welding are actually Group 1 carcinogens

    The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has found that welding fumes and UV radiation from welding are carcinogenic and pose a serious risk to workers. When the carcinogenity of welding fumes were assessed back in 1989 (almost 30 years ago!), they were determined to be Group 2B, or “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. All that’s changed now, thanks to advancements in science and medical technologies.

    In March of this year, a group of 17 scientists from 10 difference countries came together to evaluate the risks welding fumes pose to workers based on new evidence that’s accumulated over the past several decades, including observational and experimental studies. The findings? Welding fumes and UV radiation have now been linked to various types of cancers, including eye, lung, and kidney. What’s even more concerning is that solvents used for cleaning metals in conjunction with welding, like trichloroethylene, have also shown to increase the risk of kidney cancer.

    Leaving the Shop Door Open for ‘Ventilation’ Isn’t Enough

    If you or your workers are hardfacing, welding stainless steel, or doing projects that require high arc-on time, a significantly larger number of fumes are generated, which can very easily lead to overexposure. You need to take action to reduce the risk of exposure. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety recommends taking the following precautions:

    • Follow manufacturer’s instructions, safety data sheets (SDSs), and safety protocols to minimize the hazards of welding gases.
    • Use substitute materials such as water-based cleaners or high flash point solvents.
    • Cover the degreaser baths or containers.
    • Do not weld on surfaces that are still wet with a degreasing solvent.
    • Do not weld near degreasing baths.
    • Do not use chlorinated hydrocarbon degreasers.
    • Have adequate ventilation in a workplace to prevent the displacement or enrichment of oxygen and to prevent the accumulation of flammable atmospheres.
    • Use local exhaust ventilation systems to remove fume and gases from the welder’s breathing zone.
    • Wear appropriate respiratory protective equipment. The respiratory protective equipment should not be used to replace the use of mechanical ventilation.

    If you’re still unsure about how to protect yourself or your employees against carcinogenic welding fumes and radiation, learn how the CleanSpace respirator can help. We can walk you through developing an appropriate welding respiratory protection program.




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    Michael Douglas | National Manager, Marketing Segments
    Levitt-Safety Limited Oakville