The exposure to welding fumes are known to cause respiratory complications but a recent study finds that the manganese in welding fumes may cause neurological disorder similar to Parkinson's disease.
The research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis finds that the welder exposed may develop manganism or manganese poisoning which is a severe neurologic disorder.
The affected person will develop slowness, irritability, mood changes, clumsiness and compulsive behavior. Other symptoms are similiar to Parkinson's disease and sclerosis which inhibits motor neuron response.
The more a person gets exposed to the toxic fumes with manganese, the faster the symptoms and signs of the developing disorder.
The study also finds that the current allowable limits and safety standards for manganese exposure are not adequately protecting welders from the hazards of the job.
“We found that chronic exposure to manganese-containing welding fumes is associated with progressive neurological symptoms such as slow movement and difficulty speaking,” explained Brad A. Racette, MD, a professor of neurology and the main author of the study.
“The more exposure you have to welding fumes, the more quickly those symptoms progress over time,” he added.
The 886 welders being tested by Racette and his colleagues and after series of at least two standardized clinical evaluation of motor function a year after or a couple of years apart yield significant results.
Using Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale with 6 or lower is the normal scale while 15 and higher is tagged with Parkinsonism. The welders fell into 8.8 average score and those in 15 higher scores tagged with Parkinsonism falls in 15 percent. It also turned out that the scores increased overtime and the symptoms of Parkinsonism have worsened.
The alarming find in this study is the fact that these neurologically affected welders havean estimated exposure of only 0.14 milligrams of manganese per cubic meter of air while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standard is set to 5 milligrams per cubic meter.
“We can make the workplace safer for welders,” Racette said. “Reducing OSHA’s allowable levels of manganese would probably make a big difference in terms of safety and help workers avoid such risks.”