As part of their job, many welders are exposed to loud noises, intense heat, blinding light and breathing in potentially dangerous welding fumes.
In such working conditions, welding fumes have been shown to have a major negative impact on hearing.
Additionally, exposure to certain chemicals or heavy metals combined with loud noise are said to cause even more harm to the hearing than either types of exposure alone.
Arc welding creates most fumes
Although any type of welding produces fumes, arc welding produces the highest level of fumes.
During this process, metals are melted and fused as a result of high heat coming from an electric arc.
Consequently, the arc's heat vaporises a part of the metal which is emitted into the air as fumes.
Fumes cause neurological damage
Lately, the presence of manganese in welding fumes has caught the attention of many researchers due to its negative neurological effects.
High concentrations of manganese, which is a naturally occurring metal necessary for healthy bones and skin, are said to cause symptoms similar to that of Parkinson's disease, i.e. poor balance and tremors.
Also, animal studies have revealed that low levels of manganese can lead to permanent damage to the auditory nerve fibres and cells of the inner ear.