January 03, 2017
New research involving shipyard and metal fabrication workers finds that increased exposure to the chemical element manganese in welding fumes is linked to the worsening of parkinsonism. This is a group of disorders that share some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, such as slow movement and stiffness.
The researchers suggest that the findings show a need for tighter control of exposure to manganese in the workplace. The study - led by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO - is published in the journal Neurology. Lead author Brad A. Racette, a neurology professor at the School, says that the welders they studied "are developing parkinsonian symptoms even though their exposure to manganese is below the current regulatory limits."
Welding is a way of joining metal components using special equipment that heats them to a high temperature until they melt and fuse. The process generates fumes containing tiny metal particles - or particulate matter - that often include a small percentage of manganese. Manganese is an essential nutrient and a healthy person can usually excrete any excess that comes into the body through dietary sources. However, inhaled manganese is of greater concern because it bypasses our natural defense mechanisms.
Workers in a range of industries could be at risk
Welders work in a range of industries, including the construction and maintenance of ships, aircraft, oil rigs, cars, buildings, and bridges. The job requires a high degree of skill and training in the use of advanced technology. The welding process that generates the highest level of particulate matter is flux core arc welding in a confined space.
Previous research has already linked welding fumes to parkinsonism. In 2011, for example, Prof. Racette and others reported how they found that workers exposed to welding fumes may be at risk for brain damage in an area of the brain that is also affected in Parkinson's disease.
Labor statistics show that there are more than 380,000 welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers employed in the United States. However, this figure does not include other jobs that may also involve some welding. Prof. Racette suggests that the total number of workers in the U.S. who perform welding as part of their job is approximately 1 million. [...]
Read the full article at MedicalNewsToday.com.