Occupational survey of airborne metal exposures to welders, metalworkers, and bystanders in small fabrication shops.J Occup Environ Hyg. 2019 06; 16(6):410-421.JO
The objective of this study was to characterize worker exposure to airborne metal and particulate matter in shops where multiple types of metalworking tasks were performed. The sampling strategy included full-shift and task-based personal samples on workers who performed flux-cored arc welding, personal samples on workers performing non-welding metalworking tasks, and area samples near welders, representing bystanders to welding. Size-fractionated particulate matter adjacent to welding activities was measured using real-time monitoring devices. Samples were analyzed for 21 individual metals, of which 8 were frequently detected. Exceedance fractions were calculated based on the distribution of results for each frequently detected metal. Exceedance fractions were <5% for all metals, except manganese (6% of the REL, 55% of the inhalable TLV-TWA and 91% of the respirable TLV-TWA) and iron oxide (10% of the REL and TLV-TWA) for Shop 1 bystander samples, manganese (68% for the inhalable TLV-TWA and 98% of the respirable TLV-TWA) for welder samples, and manganese (35% for the inhalable TLV-TWA and 80% of the respirable TLV-TWA) and iron oxide (12% for the PEL and 23% for the REL and TLV-TWA) for metalworker samples. Particulate matter concentrations measured at distances of 0.9-1.5 m and 2.1-2.7 m from the welder were within the same order of magnitude. The results of this study allow for comparison to health-based exposure limits for select individual components of welding fume with a low to medium degree of censorship.