Guide to Manganism, Welding Fumes, and Manganese Exposure

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Frequently Asked Questions

What health problems do welders have from welding fumes containing manganese?

Welders may become sick from breathing in manganese in fumes created by the welding process. They have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, especially at a young age. They may also suffer from manganism or manganese poisoning, a condition that damages the brain and nervous system. Patients with manganism have tremors, slow movements, an awkward gait, body stiffness, and a fixed gaze.

How do welders develop manganism?

Although manganese is normally present in the human diet, excess exposure to airborne manganese can lead to manganese poisoning or manganism. Manganese–containing welding rods release the metal during the welding process, as do some materials that are welded. Welders can breath in the manganese through welding fumes and dust. Safety precautions are necessary to reduce this risk. See Welder Safety Issues.

I’ve heard that welders are likely to get Parkinson’s disease. Is this true?

Studies show that exposure to welding fumes may speed up the development of Parkinson’s disease. One report found that among 20,000 welders, 10% came down with Parkinson’s disease. The rate of Parkinson’s disease in the general population is about 1%.

I work around welding fumes, but I’m not a welder. Am I still at risk for developing manganism and other welding–related diseases?

Sadly, you may still be at risk for developing manganism and other welding–related health problems. In one case, a man who worked around welding fumes for many years developed Parkinson’s disease. Welders’ assistants and bystanders nearby welders are at risk for manganese exposure if the work space is not adequately vented.

What are the symptoms of manganism?

Symptoms of manganism include tremors, slow movements, a staggering gait, body stiffness, and a fixed gaze. In some cases, patients may suffer memory loss, and even mood swings and irritability. Because some of these symptoms may be common to other illnesses, it is important to inform your doctor about your manganese exposure.

Is there a cure for manganism?

Once it is in an advanced stage, manganism is irreversible. Some patients have been treated with EDTA (edetate calcium disodium), a substance that binds metals into stable cyclic compounds. In China, researchers treated two manganism patients with sodium paraaminosalicylic acid (PAS sodium), a drug normally used along with other medications to treat tuberculosis. Both EDTA and PAS sodium were used in early studies, producing limited results—the reduction of symptoms, but not a definitive cure. More research needs to be done to determine the effectiveness, safety, and proper dosage of EDTA or PAS sodium for reducing manganism symptoms or treating the disease. See Finding a Cure: The Quest for New for Manganism Treatments for more details.

What safety precautions are needed to reduce my chances of developing manganism or Parkinson’s disease from welding fumes?

Your employer can reduce your risk from welding fumes by providing good ventilation, shielding, protective equipment, and other controls. Ventilation includes hoods, roof vents, and fans. Good respirators help, but are not a substitute for proper workspace ventilation. Your employer must monitor the air and keep your manganese exposure within certain legal limits. See Worker Safety Issues and Manganese in Welding Fumes.

What toxic chemicals and metals are given off by welding fumes?

Welding gives off fumes that contain toxic metals, including nickel, chromium, manganese, zinc, and cadmium. Gases are also produced during the welding process. These include carbon monoxide, which can deplete the air of oxygen in close quarters, and ozone, a lung irritant. The content of the welding fumes depends upon the composition of the welding rods, base materials, and the material that is being welded. See Welding Fumes and Gases.

What types of lawsuits are injured welders involved in?

Injured welders have filed lawsuits against welding rod manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers based on exposure to their defective products. If you are a welder and your doctor is treating you for Parkinson’s disease, manganism, or Parkinson–type symptoms, please feel free to contact us at Brayton Purcell to learn about your legal options.