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Exposure to Coal Smoke

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Anyone ever experience any symptoms from exposure to coal smoke?

I was forging in my driveway last week and was running into darkness. My wife came out to help me so I could finish this project for her sisters birthday. As we were finishing up it was dark and I noticed a slightly acrid odor but didnt think to much about it as we were wrapping up. I assume the byproducts of the cooling coal were hovering down low vs blowing up and away due to the lack of wind, high humidity, and cool air. Over the last week we have both had severe coughs, sore throat, fever, runny nose, etc. It seemed to coincidental that we both started feeling ill the day after we forged.

Any thoughts or experiences?

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I was in a shop with a bad chimney and really bad high sulphur coal. That night it felt like I had the flu, knocked me down, fever like symptom, but I don't think I was vomitting. I can smell bad coal from a long way off now. Another reason why I use propane now. I got tired of chasing after good coal.

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Just did some more reading and searching. Metal Fume Fever or exposure to the sulpher in the coal forming acid in the mucous is possible. All present similar flue like symptoms and MFF has a few more symptoms. We were working with half inch mild square steel so no chance of galvanizing being involved. Scary part is the air really appeared clear thats why I didnt put two and two together.

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I would suggest CO, Carbon Monoxide being inhaled. This is another good reason for a chimney, to get the exhaust from the fire up and out of your work area.

There are several threads on the site about it as well as zinc and heavy metal poisoning.


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Overview

Carbon monoxide (sometimes referred to as CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning material containing carbon. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage and death. You can't see it, smell it, or taste it; but carbon monoxide can kill you.

Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. This odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas is known as the "Silent Killer." The Centers for Disease Control estimates that carbon monoxide poisoning claims nearly 500 lives, and causes more than 15,000 visits to hospital emergency departments annually.

Carbon monoxide is produced by common household appliances. When not properly ventilated, carbon monoxide emitted by these appliances can build up. See below for a list of appliances that can emit carbon monoxide.

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue, are often mistaken for the flu because the deadly gas goes undetected in a home. Prolonged exposure can lead to brain damage and even death.


Remember that if you can see it, smell it, or taste it, it is not good for the lungs. They are designed to operate on CLEAN AIR.

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I would suggest CO, Carbon Monoxide being inhaled. This is another good reason for a chimney, to get the exhaust from the fire up and out of your work area.

There are several threads on the site about it as well as zinc and heavy metal poisoning.


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Overview


Remember that if you can see it, smell it, or taste it, it is not good for the lungs. They are designed to operate on CLEAN AIR.


I also belief CO builds up in your blood stream and blocks your ability to move oxygen. It takes a little while for it to go away. So some exposure regularly could have a prolonged and building effect. Hope I am remembering that correctly!

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Forging mild steel 1/2" square bar.

Didnt taste or see anything till right at the end. We just cleaned up and I put the garage door down. Left the forge sitting outside to cool. Thats when I noticed the taste so assumed it was more from the hot rich coal(no air flow) gassing off.

Ran it by the Dr and she said she dosent think it was that because we would have other signs and symptoms had we been exposed to something that caustic. She said it certainly didnt help but not the root cause.

Also talked to a co worker today and he reported similar symptoms starting around the same time. His Dr reported several cases recently of unusualy severe respiratory infections as well.

Regardless it scared me enough I think I might be done with coal till i get a good flue built for my forge and only use it for demos from now on.

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Sounds a little like zinc oxide exposure but not a lot. Sulphur exposure is a little more immediate but there are other things in coal possibly some noxious.

What it really sounds like to me is a bug, there's been one running around here that's finally letting people breath clearly, lots of phlem, sore throats, hacky coughing and stinging, runny noses, it'll turn into bronchitis or in a few cases pneumonia. Felt like pneumonia but not quite. Worst of all is it's really slow onset, lots of time to be infectious and spread the joy. Most unpleasant.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thats exactly it Frosty. What ever is goiing around is not normal. The usual sore throat progressing to fever and chills then reversing itself over three or four days is gone. This hit us a week ago Sunday and we are still feeling the effects. It didnt help that my doc is scared of antibiotic mutations and said it was viral just let it run its course. I have the most severe cough and sore throat I have ever had and I am four days on antibiotics. It was just very ironic that my wife and i were hit at the same time the day after we were forging out in front of the house.

Anyway if you get it tell your doc u need antibiotics for this one or you will be down for the count. Wife has missed almost two weeks of work. As I type this she is in the bathroom coughing so bad it sounds like shes is geeting sick....and this started a week ago Sunday.

However, I am glad it is not exposure to coal smoke like I thought it was.

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As blacksmiths, we thing everything as being blacksmithing related.
As doctors, they think everything as being medically related.

It is not always the last event or action that causes the problem. For instance, getting too tired, cold, for both, lowers the bodies defenses and opens the door for colds, flu, respiratory infections and other things to attach the body. It is not always a simple answer as to why you got "it" or what "it" is. If these meds do not to the trick, have cultures run so you KNOW what "it" is and then how to fight "it".

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I spent years burning coal as a full time smith, nine years ago I went and had a chest x ray, resulting in a small black spot in one lung. Twelve months ago I had a second x ray of same area, concerned it might have grown, good news no change in eight years. Now I use gas should be no problem. So the message I'm sending is get checked by medical proffessionals, don't be like alot of men and think it will be ok.

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lets see, I am a welder by trade, a blacksmith by hobby. I weld with a CO2/Ag mix for 10 hrs a day, my shop is small and my venting is not to what I would call par, still get lots of smoke in the shop and working on fixing that. I have not gotten any of the symptoms mentioned here. I used to smoke but gave that up 10 yrs ago. I have no allergies I know of. For me to get the symptoms I would have to be down with a flu, cold, or combo. I would go with the flu especially if you were doing it out in the open and not in a small enclosed space. although, if you do not do smithing often, you could be susceptible to the byproducts of burning coal.

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