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Understanding Toxic Emissions from Brazing and Soldering

Understanding Toxic Emissions from Brazing and Soldering

Understanding Toxic Emissions from Brazing and Soldering

The art of using heat to fuse metal parts to produce or repair objects is centuries old. Fine jewelry, cell phones, car engines, plumbing systems, satellite components, and specialized tools are just some of the countless everyday objects created or repaired by soldering or brazing.

For every one of these items in existence, a person produced it or oversaw its production. A lot of manufactured objects equals a lot of manufacturing workers. Unfortunately, soldering and brazing generate air pollution that creates occupational risk for those workers, and without indoor air quality (IAQ) measures, people can get very sick.

While both welding and brazing aim to join or strengthen metal pieces with heat, they differ in their operating temperatures. Brazing is performed at high temperatures in excess of 840°F (450°C), while welding is performed at temperatures below 840°F (450°C). When joining metal pieces, such as wires in a circuit board, soldering melts the filler metal to strengthen the outer metal base (such as creating leak-proof pipes).

Many industries rely on soldering and brazing to manufacture products. For example, both processes are widely used in appliance manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, power and energy, medical, HVAC, and electronics industries.

Health Risks of Welding and Brazing
Harmful chemicals and metal fumes are released during welding and brazing.

  • Metal fumes include: lead, cadmium, zinc, copper

Breathing in these fumes may cause acute respiratory problems

Breathing in these fumes may cause acute respiratory problems
Cough, throat irritation, difficulty breathing, long-term exposure may cause serious health problems
Asthma, bronchitis and metal fume fever.

Exposure to lead and cadmium, in particular, may also cause neurological damage and cancer risks.

In defining the risks associated with indoor air pollution, the EPA breaks down the difference between short-term and chronic exposure:

Some health effects may show up shortly after a single exposure (short-term exposure) or repeated contact with a pollutant. Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure (chronic). (1)

How to maximize the safety of yourself and your employees

To minimize the risk of becoming ill from solder and brazing pollution, proper safety measures should include:

  • Proper industrial hygiene to minimize particulate accumulation
  • The use of personal protective equipment
  • Adequate workspace ventilation
  • The use of methods and materials that produce fewer emissions, when possible
  • Air cleaning equipment such to source capture for fumes and dusts

At Fumeclear®, our FC range of Fume Extractor products eliminate contamination at the source. Our benchtop and mobile fume evacuators are our most popular and recommended products as they are specifically designed for applications such as welding and brazing. To ensure your workplace has the right IAQ for the health of all employees, contact Fumeclear® today for a consultation about our welding products.

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