Workplace exposure to particulate matter, bio-accessible, and non-soluble metal compounds during hot work processes.J Occup Environ Hyg. 2019 Jun; 16(6):378-386.JO
While exposure to air contaminants from metal arc welding at workplaces has been intensively investigated over the last five decades, other hot work processes, such as flame and plasma cutting, air carbon arc gouging, and surface grinding have not received as much attention. Exposures to particulate matter (PM) during selected hot work processes, such as metal active gas (MAG) and manual metal arc (MMA) welding, flame and plasma cutting, air carbon arc gouging, and surface grinding were measured. Respirable, inhalable, and "total" fractions of the PM were collected with different air samplers in the workers' breathing zone. Concentrations of PM, chromium (Cr), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), and lead (Pb) were determined in the samples by using gravimetric analysis and plasma-based analytical atomic spectrometry techniques. Bio-accessibility of the elements was investigated by using a synthetic lung lining fluid (Hatch´s solution) for the leaching of soluble metal compounds in the collected samples. Short term (15-75 min) workplace air concentrations of PM, Cr, Fe, Mn, Ni and Cu in the workers´ breathing zone during hot work processes were found to be high compared to the current 8-hr time-weighted average (TWA) exposure limit values (ELVs) in use in many countries. The short-term median concentrations of PM during the different hot work processes varied between 6.0 and 88.7 mg m-3 and between 15.1 and 193 mg m-3 in the respirable and inhalable fractions, respectively. The highest median concentration of Fe (107 mg m-3) and Mn (28.7 mg m-3) was found in the inhalable fraction during plasma cutting and air carbon arc gouging, respectively. More than 40% of the inhalable PM generated during flame and plasma cutting, air carbon arc gouging and surface grinding was present in the respirable fraction. There was large variation in the bio-accessibility of the elements in PM collected during the different hot work processes.