A study was conducted on the effectiveness of welding helmets in reducing the exposure of workers to metal fumes. Experienced welders performed routine electric arc welding on galvanized mild steel in an environmental exposure chamber while wearing welding helmets. Air samples obtained from the breathing zones of the subjects and from within the helmets were collected and analyzed for metal fumes. Iron (7439896) levels were greater in 44% of the samples from inside the helmets compared with outside levels while 35% of zinc (7440666) exposures were higher inside compared with outside. The mean ratio of the inside to outside concentrations of iron was 0.9 and the median was 0.96. Similar values were seen for zinc. Decreasing ratios were seen with increasing outside concentrations of either iron or zinc. The authors conclude that any attenuation of metal gas fumes accomplished by the use of welding helmets is highly variable and sometimes negligible under heavy exposure situations.
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