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Effects of welding galvanized steel...


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I keep seeing people bring up the idea of drinking milk as a way to of set metal fume fever. And while I'm convinved you all have pointed out that it doesn't work. I'd like to point out (among other reasons) why.

Milk, when drunk goes in your stomach. Zinc fumes, when inhaled, go in your lungs. Seems to me even the logic of trying it is bad. The two are in diffrent places unless you like inhaling your milk or breathing through your stomach, both which seem to me to be a triffle uncomfortable.

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Blafen,
Thank you for using IForgeIron as a safety reference to your instructor.

We keep warning about the dangers of galvanized fumes because most people DO NOT know the proper safety procedures, and have NOT been trained to do it safely. Fewer still will take the time necessary to learn or invest in the proper equipment to do it safely. Therefore we throw out a blanket warning trying to cover all the reasons to be safe. Fume fever (heavy metal poisoning) is not something you want to play with.

Remember that although YOU do not weld on galvanized, the student next to you may, and the fumes from any welding on galvanize will fill the entire room, not just his work station. Personal safety is your taking the responsibility to keep YOU safe.

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Frostfly your reasoning doesn't hold true; otherwise taking oral antibiotics for a lung infection would not work. I've had pneumonia a couple of times and they gave me oral drugs for a lung problem and it did work.

Milk is not a good cure; but for other reasons. Chelation of heavy metals is what you are trying to accomplish and if an oral chelation agent will work then it does not matter how it's been absorbed into the system.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 months later...

Zinc, Chrome, Cadmium, etc., lots of the coatings on metals are "heavy metals." You can ingest them in dust form or metal fumes. They accumulate in your organs and never leave. Milk and Milk of Magnesia are probably old wives tales and won't do anything for you because you got the metal in through your lungs, not your stomach. Grinding indoors will leave the dust all over your shop and clothes, then you can share it with your wife and kids. Sound good so far?

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Some very good points are raised in this thread.

In order to dispell myths, the MSDS (material safety data sheet) for any substances encountered should be consulted. The msds will provide important pieces of information such as the LD50, routes of entry, treatments etc.

Now keep in mind that there are issues with relying exclusively on MSDS's. For one, the animals used to determine toxic and lethal levels are usually rodents, so extrapolating their effects to humans introduces some level of error. Secondly, (not necessarily bad) msds's tend to be far more cautious than what is required. For example, water has health hazards on it's msds. Another example is boric acid. If you read the msds, it is highly toxic. If you go to a doctor and require an eye wash, they will use boric acid. A third example is selenium. I used selenium tablets as a catalyst in a lab tech job I used to have. The msds raised all sorts of red flags when in fact toothpaste contained more selenium than the tablets I was using. Bottom line is you have to use some common sense when interpretting msds's.

Another challenge is determining what levels of a toxin you are encountering. Short of having expensive air quality tests that quantify specific toxins in the environment, there is really no way to tell if you are exposing yourself to hazardous levels of certain chemicals.

Yet another aspect to keep in mind is the route of entry. Many people are rightfully worried about inhalation of fumes. They also have to keep in mind their eyes which are effectively sponges which soak up many contaminants in the environment (eg. welding fumes). Safety glasses don't protect your eyes from fumes. Goggles do.

A final challenge is you are never really sure of what chemicals will be produced in certain activities. Welding is a chemical reaction where chemical compounds are consumed and produced. Unless extensive research has been conducted on the exact methods and materials that you are using, you are never sure when you will encounter.

A take home message would be if you can't be sure and want to ensure your safety, err on the side of safety. I used to work in a malt house, in chemistry labs and other industrial environments, and whenever there was a risk of exposure to almost anything, I wore a North 7800 FULL FACE respirator with Defender cartridges (respirators have their own set of challenges (like correct fit, beards prevent proper seals, lung capacity is reduced) and before wearing one, an expert should be consulted). I was routinely in environments with very high chlorine, SO2, and glaciel acetic acid levels. The company I worked for had a lot of liability resting on their shoulders if these safety standards weren't followed, so all our PPE (personal protective equipment) was supplied (safety is not cheap-the respirators were over $300 each).

Sorry for my long-winded post. I'm not a safety expert but I have been trained as a biologist, have worked in chemical labs, was the safety officer at previous jobs, and now work in the commercial/industrial construction industry (safety is paramount at my company and concrete has chromium hexavalent!). I figure if my experience can clarify (of muddy) something or makes someone think more critically about a situation, then I guess it's worth it!

Edited by Sask Mark
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I work at a EVAPCO (Manufacturers of Industrial & Commercial Cooling Equipment that makes water cooling towers, evaporators, etc. Big unit placed on tops of buildings. We do alot of Galv. metal and weld alot of the same.

Our welders use or are supposed to use what is called a defumer. Basically a large vacuum cleaner that sucks in the fumes and filters it. There must be some smaller type of unit that you can buy that does the same thing.

Also there are welding helmets on the market that have a blower system in them in order to keep the fumes away from you.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"A heavy metal is a member of an ill-defined subset of elements that exhibit metallic properties, which would mainly include the transition metals, some metalloids, lanthanides, and actinides. Many different definitions have been proposed—some based on density, some on atomic number or atomic weight, and some on chemical properties or toxicity.[1] The term heavy metal has been called "meaningless and misleading" in an IUPAC technical report due to the contradictory definitions and its lack of a "coherent scientific basis".[1] There is an alternative term toxic metal, for which no consensus of exact definition exists either.

It commonly refers to any element in the d-block of the periodic table, including zinc, cadmium and mercury. This corresponds to groups 3 to 12 on the periodic table. "

No matter what you call them, the toxic effects of ingesting or inhaling too much zinc or other "heavy metals" are well documented. One would be better served to be more concerned with what effects "heavy metals" have while they are in the body rather than the rate at which they are excreeted from the body.

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  • 1 month later...

I wouldnt ward off milk as a wives tell totally. It is not a cure to the adverse effects of Zinc. I believe it just helps with the nauseua and helps to settle the stoamch a bit. I was posioned by welding galvanized extremely bad as a kid and a tiny wiff of it now days makes me want to puke. I will weld on it but only in front of a fan, outside or with a respirator. I would be more concerned about the cadium, maganese or the other metal vapors that dont stink and we weld under all the time with out thinking about.

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