Criteria For a Recommended Standard: Welding, Brazing, and Thermal Cutting (Abridged Edition)

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 88-110A

This abridged edition of the criteria document on welding, brazing, and thermal cutting reviewed available information on the health risks to workers engaged in these activities and provided criteria for eliminating or minimizing the occupational risks. Epidemiological studies and case reports have established that workers exposed to hazardous substances in these activities have a higher risk of developing acute and chronic respiratory disease. The excessive incidence of lung cancer among welders was of prime concern. Evidence suggested the risk of lung cancer is elevated 40 percent among welders. This increased risk appeared to be associated with exposures to nickel (7440020) and chromium (7440473) fumes. Excesses in morbidity and mortality among welders have been shown to exist even when exposures have been reported to be below current OSHA permissible limits for the many individual components released in welding emissions. The severity and prevalence of noncarcinogenic respiratory conditions were not well characterized among welders, but have been observed in both smoking and nonsmoking members of this work force. NIOSH recommends that exposure to all welding emissions be reduced to the lowest feasible limits using state of the art engineering controls and work practices. Exposure limits for individual chemical or physical agents should be considered upper boundaries of exposure.

Page last reviewed: April 11, 2017