Why welders & laser welding operators need to be aware of the risks of hexavalent chromium exposure

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Welding and Laser Welding fumes are more dangerous than many people think. Exposure to fumes from these processes is a common source of work-related illness.

Hexavalent chromium is one of those dangerous heavy metals that exist in welding fumes. If you or your employees are exposed to welding fumes, understanding the risks of exposure to hexavalent chromium and other similar heavy metals is absolutely paramount.

OSHA lowered the acceptable exposure limit of hexavalent chromium to 5 μg per cubic meter back in 2006. Many shops and factories have since looked for solutions to stay compliant, but compliance is only one part of the issue.

Hexavalent chromium exposure poses a health risk. Several welding or laser welding processes involving carbon steel, stainless steel, copper, and aluminum produce a significant amount of fumes containing hexavalent chromium.

Health risks from hexavalent chromium exposure include skin ulcerations, contact dermatitis, septum ulcerations, and lung cancer. These fumes are highly dangerous.

The solution for shops is to have a strong air ventilation and filtration system. However, not all solutions are equally viable.

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Keeping the air as free of contaminants as possible requires a solution that will collect fumes at the point of generation while filtering and recirculating the air through the shop. 

An ideal solution is to have filter units on the production line in order to capture the exhaust, filter the contaminants out of it, and recirculate the air after it’s been cleaned. 

Many air filtration and ventilation systems simply pump the cleaned air outside, and recirculate air from the outside into the shop. This requires a great deal of energy because more air is circulating over a larger area. Using a system that recirculates filtered air from the inside reduces the energy load and reduces the need for air coming in from the outside.

Best of all, it doesn’t just protect workers from hexavalent chromium exposure. These filter units reduce the overall amount of dust and particles floating around in the air that these workers breathe.

This solution keeps workers safe while also reducing overall energy costs.

IP Systems USA is a leading provider of fume extraction and clean air solutions for welding shops and factories. They provide systems that keep shops compliant and keep workers safe.

Related analysis: Mitigating the fire and explosion risks of laser metal processing