Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 88-110, 1988 Apr; :1-246
This document examines the occupational health risks associated with welding, brazing, and thermal cutting, and it provides criteria for eliminating or minimizing the risks encountered by workers in these occupations. The main health concerns are increased risks of lung cancer and acute or chronic respiratory disease. The data in this document indicate that welders have a 40% increase in relative risk of developing lung cancer as a result of their work experience. The basis for this excess risk is difficult to determine because of uncertainties about smoking habits, possible interactions among the various components of welding emissions, and possible exposures to other occupational carcinogens. However, the risk of lung cancer for workers who weld on stainless steel appears to be associated with exposure to fumes that contain nickel and chromium. The severity and prevalence of noncarcinogenic respiratory conditions are not well characterized among welders, but they have been observed in both smoking and nonsmoking workers in occupations associated with welding. Excesses in morbidity and mortality among welders exist even when reported exposures are below current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limits (PELs) for the many individual components of welding emissions. An exposure limit for total welding emissions cannot be established because the composition of welding fumes and gases varies for different welding processes and because the various components of a welding emission may interact to produce adverse health effects. Some of these include alkali metals, alkaline earths, aluminum, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, fluorides, iron, lead, manganese, nickel, silica, titanium, zinc, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and ozone. NIOSH therefore recommends that exposures to all welding emissions be reduced to the lowest feasible concentrations using state-of-the-art engineering controls and work practices. Exposure limits for individual chemical or physical agents are to be considered upper boundaries of exposure.