Welders are 43 percent more likely to develop lung cancer due to their high exposure to carcinogenic welding fumes, according to a major study.
The findings come as workplaces around the world are being encouraged to actively reconsider their stance on welders’ respiration protection.
It’s believed that approximately 110 million workers worldwide are exposed to welding fumes, which in 2017 were determined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to be definitely carcinogenic to humans, after previously being considered possibly carcinogenic.
IRAC reviewed 45 studies representing over 16 million workers, with the results revealing welders are 43 per cent more to develop lung cancer than workers who have never worked as welders nor been regularly exposed to welding fumes.
According to researchers, there was an increased risk of lung cancer regardless of the type of steel being welded or the method of welding being used.
“Welders are exposed to a complex mixture of chemical compounds that might vary by the type of welding method used (e.g. gas, arc), the type of metal being welded (mild or stainless steel) and the occupational setting where welding is performed.”
The increased risk of lung cancer was independent to the increased risk of cancer associated with tobacco smoking or exposure to asbestos, and the risk increased with the length of employment as a welder.
Researchers said this new analysis can be used to calculate the burden of cancers attributed to welding fumes and inform the design of evidence-based public health measures to prevent or avoid exposure to welding fumes.
Earlier this year, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) committed to raise its control standards for welding fumes, and said it would no longer accept any welding to be undertaken without suitable exposure control methods in place. It reaffirmed its stance that there is currently no known level of safe exposure to welding fumes.
“With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control,” HSE said in a statement.