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Hexavalent chromium exposure and control in welding tasks.

Meeker-JD; Susi-P; Flynn-MR
J Occup Environ Hyg 2010 Nov; 7(11):607-615
Studies of exposure to the lung carcinogen hexavalent chromium (CrVI) from welding tasks are limited, especially within the construction industry where overexposure may be common. In addition, despite the OSHA requirement that the use of engineering controls such as local exhaust ventilation (LEV) first be considered before relying on other strategies to reduce worker exposure to CrVI, data on the effectiveness of LEV to reduce CrVI exposures from welding are lacking. The goal of the present study was to characterize breathing zone air concentrations of CrVI during welding tasks and primary contributing factors in four datasets: (1) OSHA compliance data; (2) a publicly available database from The Welding Institute (TWI); (3) field survey data of construction welders collected by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR); and (4) controlled welding trials conducted by CPWR to assess the effectiveness of a portable LEV unit to reduce CrVI exposure. In the OSHA (n = 181) and TWI (n = 124) datasets, which included very few samples from the construction industry, the OSHA permissible exposure level (PEL) for CrVI (5 ug/m3) was exceeded in 9% and 13% of samples, respectively. CrVI concentrations measured in the CPWR field surveys (n = 43) were considerably higher, and 25% of samples exceeded the PEL. In the TWI and CPWR datasets, base metal, welding process, and LEV use were important predictors of CrVI concentrations. Only weak-tomoderate correlations were found between total particulate matter and CrVI, suggesting that total particulate matter concentrations are not a good surrogate for CrVI exposure in retrospective studies. Finally, in the controlled welding trials, LEV reduced median CrVI concentrations by 68% (p = 0.02). In conclusion, overexposure to CrVI in stainless steel welding is likely widespread, especially in certain operations such as shielded metal arc welding, which is commonly used in construction. However, exposure could be substantially reduced with proper use of LEV.
Carcinogens; Hexavalent-chromium-compounds; Respiratory-system-disorders; Lung-cancer; Lung-disease; Welders; Welding; Construction; Construction-workers; Occupational-diseases; Occupational-exposure; Control-technology; Control-systems; Employee-exposure; Engineering-controls; Exhaust-systems; Exhaust-ventilation; Author Keywords: chromium; engineering control; exposure; local exhaust ventilation; stainless steel; welding
John Meeker, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 6635 SPH Tower, 109 S. Observatory Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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Journal Article
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Construction; Cooperative Agreement
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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
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Center to Protect Workers' Rights