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Current Inadequate Welding Safety Standards Raise Major Concerns

According to a Washington University research study, published recently in the medical journal of neurology, the current safety standards in place for welders may be cause for major health concern. The present safety standards spotlight the inadequate safety measurements currently in place to protect welders from the harmful fumes that they encounter on a daily basis.

The published study observed the long-term effects of airborne manganese on welders with its connection to symptoms that are correlated with parkinsonism. The results amplified over the welder’s lifetime due to their corresponding individual exposure level. Welders frequently encounter instances when manganese may found in base metal and the welding rod therefore it may be airborne, then inhaled by the welders. When exposed to high levels of manganese, it has been found that similar neurological problems found in Parkinson’s disease can be found in those individuals. The problems may include but are not limited to:

  • Movement abnormalities
  • Various levels of tremors
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Slowness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Trouble with speaking

Overall, the research study observed and tracked nearly 900 welders over a period of 10 years while working at three different types of sites. The sites were one heavy-machinery fabrication shop and two shipyards located throughout the Midwest.

Throughout the study, welders underwent examinations for typical parkinsonism symptoms using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. The results of the examinations showed that the average score was 8.8 (a score below 6 is considered to be normal and a score higher than 15 indicate parkinsonism). Although, results also showed 15%, or 133 of the workers tested, found themselves in the category of parkinsonism. Individuals who were exposed to elevated levels of manganese faced larger variations in their scores during the study. Ultimately, the senior author of the study and neurologist at Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. Brad Racette explains that it was found that the greater the amount of exposure to airborne manganese the stronger the progression of parkinsonism found in the individual welder.

The study also conducted similar testing on workers on the same three Midwest sites that were not directly exposed to the same fumes as the welders. According to that study, those workers’ scores did not change over time.

The federal agency that is responsible for workplace safety is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The most alarming area of the findings was that the welders were working in environments that the manganese levels were below, thus within, the federal regulator’s threshold. OSHA recognized that its present threshold standards fail to safeguard welders. The assistant secretary of labor for OSHA went as far to express that the federal agency, “has long recognized that our current Permissible Exposure Limit is outdated and inadequately protective.”

If you or a loved one has experienced any type of negative side effects while working with or from airborne manganese or other reasoning while working as a welder, contact the Naumes Law Group.