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The Health Hazards of Manganese on Welders

Dr. Mike Harris
“If you weld, your chances of being overexposed to manganese are just about 100 percent.” – Mike Harris, PhD, CIH

Are you aware of the health hazards of manganese on welders? We spoke with Mike Harris of Hamlin & Harris, Inc. to find out just how toxic welding fumes can be. Harris is a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) who teaches courses on welder health and safety for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). According to his expertise, you can easily reduce manganese exposure using a source capture device, like Air Quality Engineering’s industrial air cleaners. Read on to find out how.

What is Manganese?

Manganese is a chemical element that’s used in many industrial processes such as welding. Post-weld cooling creates tensile stresses that tend to “pop” welds. As a transition metal, manganese is added to welding consumables to enhance their hot ductility, and therefore the filler metal’s ability to be cool and contract without fracturing.

Industry Standards: Exposure Limits

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces a general permissible exposure limit (PEL) for manganese, but this regulation does not address the neurotoxic effects of manganese overexposure.

“The OSHA permissible exposure limit for manganese of five milligrams per cubic meter is decades out of date,” Harris said. “In the industry, we recommend following the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists threshold limit value.” The ACGIH’s threshold limit value (TLV) is .02 milligrams of respirable manganese per cubic meter.

The Problem

The ACGIH doesn’t have federal authority, and most welding shops don’t regulate manganese exposure. Even worse, the limit of .02 milligrams is completely invisible to the naked eye. Manganese is released into the air in the welding process, and the fumes go everywhere. It’s important to protect not only the welder, but everybody else in the shop.

Manganese Health Effects

Manganese affect the central nervous system. One suffering from manganism may experience decreases in verbal learning (following instructions), working memory, cognitive flexibility (learning new tasks), and visuomotor processing speeds and efficiency. Many overexposed welders have had to give up their profession, due to loss of fine motor control.

Solution

“In order to protect the welder, we typically recommend the use of a local exhaust ventilation.” Harris said. “A source capture intake, if correctly used, can make a dramatic reduction in fume exposures for the welder.”

Air Quality Engineering manufactures industrial air cleaners designed to remove welding smoke and fumes from the air. We’ve been developing reliable solutions for indoor air quality since 1973. Drawing from our extensive experience, we’ve manufactured cost-effective, practical, and productive equipment that protects welders in many applications. Our portable, ambient, and overhead air cleaners address the concerns of health hazards from manganese exposure and other welding processes.

“I’ll put their equipment up against anybody’s equipment,” Harris said. “I would say in terms of design, fabrication, and the backup you get with their engineering expertise, Air Quality Engineering is first rate. I don’t think anybody makes anything better.”

That’s certainly the customer commitment we strive to uphold day in and day out. Air Quality Engineering can recommend and deliver customized clean air solutions to meet your goals.

Contact us to learn more.

Air Quality Engineering

Air Quality Engineering