NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Comparative microscopic study of human and rat lungs after overexposure to welding fume.

Antonini JM; Roberts JR; Schwegler-Berry D; Mercer RR
Ann Occup Hyg 2013 Nov; 57(9):1167-1179
Welding is a common industrial process used to join metals and generates complex aerosols of potentially hazardous metal fumes and gases. Most long-time welders experience some type of respiratory disorder during their time of employment. The use of animal models and the ability to control the welding fume exposure in toxicology studies have been helpful in developing a better understanding of how welding fumes affect health. There are no studies that have performed a side-by-side comparison of the pulmonary responses from an animal toxicology welding fume study with the lung responses associated with chronic exposure to welding fume by a career welder. In this study, post-mortem lung tissue was donated from a long-time welder with a wellcharacterized work background and a history of extensive welding fume exposure. To simulate a long-term welding exposure in an animal model, Sprague-Dawley rats were treated once a week for 28 weeks by intratracheal instillation with 2 mg of a stainless steel, hard-surfacing welding fume. Lung tissues from the welder and the welding fume-treated rats were examined by light and electron microscopy. Pathological analysis of lung tissue collected from the welder demonstrated inflammatory cell influx and significant pulmonary injury. The poor and deteriorating lung condition observed in the welder examined in this study was likely due to exposure to very high levels of potentially toxic metal fumes and gases for a significant number of years due to work in confined spaces. The lung toxicity profile for the rats treated with welding fume was similar. For tissue samples from both the welder and treated rats, welding particle accumulations deposited and persisted in lung structures and were easily visualized using light microscopic techniques. Agglomerates of deposited welding particles mostly were observed within lung cells, particularly alveolar macrophages. Analysis of individual particles within the agglomerates showed that these particles were metal complexes with iron, chromium, and nickel being the most common metals present. In conclusion, long-term exposure to specific welding fume can lead to serious chronic lung disease characterized by significant particle deposition and persistence as demonstrated in both a human case study and rat model. Not only were the lung responses similar in the human and rat lungs, as evidenced by inflammatory cell influx and pulmonary disease, but the composition of individual welding particles and agglomerations in situ was comparable.
Welding; Welding-industry; Metal-fumes; Metal-compounds; Metallic-fumes; Fumes; Gases; Respiratory-system-disorders; Workers; Animals; Laboratory-animals; Pulmonary-function; Pulmonary-system; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Toxicology; Exposure-levels; Risk-factors; Lung-function; Lung-tissue; Lung-disorders; Lung; Pathology; Analytical-processes; Welders-lung; Particulates; Iron-compounds; Chromium-compounds; Nickel-compounds; Humans; Men; Women; Author Keywords: human; microscopy; pulmonary toxicity; rat; welding fume
7439-89-6; 7440-47-3; 7440-02-0
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Issue of Publication
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Source Name
Annals of Occupational Hygiene
Page last reviewed: April 1, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division