Welding fumes contain a small concentration of manganese. Although this substance is a natural dietary nutrient that the body excretes through the liver and kidneys, the inhaled form can cause damage to a person’s lungs, kidneys, liver and central nervous system.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to manganese in small concentrations can cause neurological problems, including behavioral changes, problems with hand and eye coordination, slowed reaction time and short-term memory loss. In addition to welding, workers who are employed in industries such as mining and ore-crushing may also risk exposure, along with those who work with ferrous and nonferrous alloys, steel and iron.
Those who are exposed may show concentrated levels of manganese in certain areas of their brain. Chronic exposure has also been demonstrated to lead to the worker’s having symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease, including shaking, balance problems, rigidity of movement and slower motion. It is thus vital that people take steps to prevent the inhalation of manganese fumes or dust while they are at work, and employers should provide workers who are at risk with safety equipment designed to reduce the likelihood of exposure.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces workplace safety regulations that govern employer safety measures and programs. Even when an employer has required safety measures in place, it is still possible to contract an occupational disease due to workplace exposure. People who have become ill due to their work environment may want to seek the help of a workers’ compensation attorney. An attorney may help their clients by gathering all of the medical documentation needed to demonstrate that the person’s illness was caused by their work and assist in the preparation and filing of a claim for benefits.