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reventing Metal Fume Fever: Metal Fume Health Risks

by FumeClear 27 May 2024

reventing Metal Fume Fever: Metal Fume Health Risks

In modern industry, welding and metal processing are indispensable processes. However, as these processes proceed, metal fume heat becomes a major threat to worker health. It is important to understand how to prevent this occupational disease and protect the health of your employees.

What is metal fume fever?
Metal fume fever is an acute illness caused by inhaling fumes containing metal components. Symptoms are flu-like and often include fever, chills, nausea and headache. While the condition usually resolves within a short period of time, repeated exposure can lead to long-term health problems.

Preventing metal fume heat starts with stopping exposure to zinc in shops and facilities where welding applications are used. Metal fume fever (MFF) is an acute allergic disease that many welders experience during their career. The primary cause of metal fume heat is overexposure to zinc oxide fumes (ZnO).

Galvanized steel has a thin layer of zinc on the surface to provide corrosion resistance and evaporates into zinc oxide fumes during various welding processes.

How Metal Fumes Are Produced by Heat

The primary source of exposure is inhalation of fumes from welding, cutting or brazing galvanized steel. During metalworking, machines operate at high speeds, creating smoke and other harmful air pollutants.

As galvanized steel becomes more common in the industry, welders are exposed to it more and more frequently. Copper and magnesium may cause similar effects. When overexposed to zinc oxide fumes, welders can develop a flu-like illness called metal fume fever. Symptoms of metal fume fever usually appear 3-10 hours after heavy exposure.

Key symptoms of metal fume fever

  • Fever: Elevated body temperature, accompanied by chills.
  • Difficulty breathing: Irritation of the throat and lungs after inhaling metal fumes.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Reactions triggered by accumulation of metal toxins in the body.
  • Headaches and Fatigue: Generalized weakness and a persistent headache.

Metal fume fever is a temporary illness with symptoms including headache, fatigue, chest and gastrointestinal pain, and may even cause convulsions and hallucinations. It's contracted through inhalation of zinc oxide fumes rather than through contact with the mouth or skin - and it happens so quickly that sometimes the welder doesn't even notice. Metal smoke fever is most likely to occur at the beginning of the work week, and some people call it Monday morning fever.

How to prevent metal fume fever?

  • Install high-efficiency Fume Extractor

Modern Fume Extractor can significantly reduce the concentration of metal fumes in the air. Choose a high-efficiency filtration system to ensure optimal air purification.

  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment

Respiratory masks and protective eyewear are essential safety equipment that can effectively prevent harmful smoke from entering the body.

  • Regular air quality monitoring

Regularly monitor air quality in the workplace through professional equipment to ensure safety standards are met.

  • Training and education

Provide regular safe operation training to workers, teach them correct welding and cutting methods, and reduce smoke generation.

  • Maintain cleanliness and good working habits

no eating or drinking in the work area, clean the workplace regularly and ensure good ventilation.

Choose the right Fume Extractor

When purchasing a Fume Extractor, you need to pay attention to the following points:

  1. Filtration efficiency: The high-efficiency filtration system can effectively capture metal particles and ensure air quality.
  2. Air flow: Sufficient flow to ensure clean air throughout the work area.
  3. Easy maintenance: Easy to maintain and replace the filter element to ensure long-term and efficient operation of the equipment.

Prevent metal fume fever with Fumeclear®!

Employers have a responsibility to provide guides, manuals and training to ensure employees understand metal fume heat and how to prevent it.

The most effective way to prevent overexposure to zinc is to use a welding fume extraction system - including source capture and local exhaust ventilation. By extracting metal fumes at the source, the surrounding air remains clean and safe to breathe, and ventilation helps remove fumes from the airstream. Other ways to help prevent metal fume heat include using PPE to protect breathing areas and continuing training on welding fumes and existing chemicals.

Currently, OSHA's standard for zinc oxide fume is 5 milligrams of zinc oxide fume per cubic meter of air (mg/m3) averaged over an 8-hour work shift.

NIOSH recommends changing the permissible exposure limit to 5 mg of zinc oxide fumes per cubic meter of air averaged over a 15-minute work shift of up to 10 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

The air contains 10 mg of zinc oxide fumes.

Fumeclear® was developed to address the health hazards that industrial machine operators face every day. Our welding fume removal solutions include fume extraction arms and welding chambers, depending on your application needs.

Fumeclear® welding fume extractors provide an easily adjustable and convenient way to remove harmful contaminants before they enter the machine operator's breathing zone. Our team works directly with engineers, distributors, and general contractors to provide turnkey pricing and custom smoke extraction systems to meet their application needs.

To learn more about metal fume heat, or to get started with a free quote, contact our experts.

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