A respirator may seem odd to most welders.
Perhaps you're just desensitized to the hazards of welding fumes. Or maybe you still think that a novelty-seeking act such as exposure to fumes is still cool. But while welding fumes don't kill 5.4 million people a year like tobacco smoke, it can slowly take the life out of you.
Disregarding your health will never be cool. It's time to move past that and find out what makes welding fumes a culprit of slow death for welders.
The Ingredients of Slow Death
The deadly fumes that come from welding are a combination of different gas substances. When inhaled constantly, they result in many short-term hazards.
Below are the most harmful substances produced by your welding.
In the short term, exposure to this substance can give you an itchy throat. You'll feel a slight irritation of the eyes and nose. If the symptom progresses, it may lead to fever.
Iron and Titanium Oxide
The density of these elements in welding fumes is enough to create dust deposits in your lungs. It may also compromise your immune system.
When you inhale copper oxide, it can cause nausea and diarrhea. You'll also experience pain in your eyes. You may even feel chills in the short term.
The nitrogen in welding fumes can cause difficulty in breathing. It's because the nitrogen causes your lungs to swell and inhibits them from functioning fully.
The excessive inhalation of this, in the short term, can prevent blood oxygenation. It will lead to fainting and, in the worst case, cardiac arrest.
Not wearing a welding respirator exposes your lungs to these substances. In the long run, if you become used to welding without any respirator helmet on, you may seriously damage your health. Worse, it may lead to death.
But what exactly are the serious health damages you may suffer?
Long-Term Effects of Death Fumes
The short-term effects of the death fumes may be tolerable. You may think you can handle the exposure without any respiratory protective equipment. But the effects of these death fumes also play a long game that guarantees a shorter life expectancy.
Severe Lung Illnesses
The effects of long-term exposure to welding fumes result in weakened lungs. You may develop asthma, emphysema, or chronic pneumonia.
Your lungs inhale iron, titanium, aluminum, and magnesium oxide particles that are present in the welding fumes. In the long run, they will settle inside your lungs and damage the surrounding tissue they come in contact with.
Manganese increases the chance of developing symptomatic brain damage. The American Academy of Neurology found that manganese present in welding fumes puts healthy welders at risk of damage to the brain area where Parkinson's disease also develops.
Long-term exposure to welding fumes may result in the degradation of renal function. Kidney damage is a result of the high cadmium concentration in the welding fumes that, when inhaled, work their way into the kidney. Other long-term effects may also include toxicity in the urinary tract and cancer.
The substances present in welding fumes can scar the respiratory tract if you don't protect yourself. You may damage the larynx when you inhale the fumes. In the long run, the constant scarring and exposure may lead to laryngeal cancer.
The dangers of exposing yourself to welding fumes work slowly but surely. The years spent welding without a respirator quietly invade your system and scrape off years of your life.
If you're expecting to live for 80 years, letting these death fumes inside your body will reduce that by a couple of decades. So it's time to get used to wearing a respirator.
How a Full-Face Welding Respirator Works
In general, respirators filter out the substances in welding fumes and prevent them from entering your body. Thus, these respirators concentrate on protecting the mouth and the nose.
A half-faced welding respirator mask is a common go-to protective equipment for welders because it's convenient. You just strap it on, and off you go.
On the other hand, it does have limitations. Often a half-face mask is not compatible with a helmet, so you're forced to trade off eye and face safety to protect your lungs. You may also feel the tight straps and inner mask linings gripping your ears and face, so you'll tend to remove them, effectively removing its protective capacity. Thus, half-mask respirators are best suited for non-welding activities such as painting and dusting.
For a bona fide welder, a welding helmet with a respiratorthat covers from head to shoulders is ideal. It has the same protective and performance functions as those of your typical welding helmet, but with the addition of a purified air supply. It ensures that your eyes are protected from the welding arc, your entire head is enclosed, and you breathe only non-hazardous air.
Wearing a welding hood with a respirator has a couple of benefits.
- It is often fitted with hard hats to also protect the top of your head.
- The helmet is spacious inside, so you won't strain your face and ears.
- Helmets with respirators are built with tough materials such as hard plastics and thick fabrics that absolutely prevent any fumes from penetrating.
- The protection also extends down to the shoulders, making sure no fumes or particles will enter via a small opening under the helmet.
- The full-face helmet accommodates welders with facial hair.
An Extended Life for Yourself
The protection of a full-face respirator helmet allows you to weld accordingly without any risk of exposure. It’s a truly foolproof way to keep the death fumes out of your system and prolong your life.
Get yourself a helmet respirator. Every day you wear one during your welding sessions is another day added to your life. So from now on, don't start and end without one.