Solvent Exposure and Welding Rods
Recent studies indicate that welders exposed to manganese at any level are at risk for neurological problems, ranging from dizziness to a Parkinson’s-like disease and even death. If you’re experiencing the neurological side effects of manganese exposure, you may be entitled to compensation.
Welding rods are used as a filler and heated to fuse other metals together. When heated, the welding rod releases dust and fumes containing numerous toxic chemicals. The specific health risks vary based on which metals are being used in the welding process.
Exposure to manganese is the most common source of welding rod-related health issues. The fumes released from welding metals together using a torch can be very dangerous. The disorders, known as manganism, welder’s disease, manganese poisoning, and manganese-induced parkinsonism, are progressive and become more severe over time.
A study comparing welders to nonwelders found the group exposed to manganese fumes after welding metals had mild movement disorders and more than a 10 percent reduction in dopamine. The career welders developed Parkinson’s disease at an average age of 46, almost 20 years before the average age of diagnosis.
Unlike other metals, manganese isn’t found as a free element and is typically combined with iron or other minerals. The gray-silver metal looks like iron, but is very hard and brittle, making it easy to oxidize and challenging to fuse. One of the most important purposes is as an industrial metal alloy used to strengthen steel. It’s also found in many industrial emissions such as welding rod fumes.
In daily life, manganese is an essential nutrient. If a healthy person experiences normal kidney and liver function, the body will excrete excess dietary manganese. The metal becomes dangerous when it’s inhaled because it bypasses defense mechanisms and can lead to an accumulation within the body, causing damage to the lungs, kidney, liver and central nervous system. Welders may experience short-term manganese exposure effects, including short-term memory loss, changed reaction time, poor hand-eye coordination and altered mood.
Long-term exposure may lead to a syndrome related to Parkinson’s called manganism. First discovered in 1837, the toxic condition is caused by chronic and excessive exposure to dangerous levels. These symptoms include slowed movements, tremors, lack of balanace and rigidity of the muscles. A variety of psychiatric disturbances, including hallucinations, are possible.
Health Effects of Manganese Exposure
Toxic exposure litigation focuses in on safe exposure limits of the chemical in question. Companies agree manganese is toxic, but maintain that their products remain safe at low levels.
The current occupational exposure limits are:
- NIOSH Recommended: 1 mg/m3 (time-weighted average) and 3 mg/m3 (short-term exposure limit)
- NIOSH Dangerous: 500 mg/ m3
- OSHA Permissible: 5 mg/m3 (ceiling)
Despite these levels, the CDC acknowledges several studies that indicate low levels of exposure (less than 0.2 mg/m3) can affect brain performance and motor skills on tests. Specific symptoms include memory loss, depression, irritability, walking difficulties and even manganism.
A study of 49 welders working on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge were found to have the following symptoms:
- Numbness – 61%
- Tremors – 42%
- Hallucinations – 19%
Manganism and Parkinson’s disease
Most neurologists agree manganese and Parkinson’s disease (PD) share similar symptoms and effects, although PD treatments do not help those experiencing manganese poisoning. One study found that welders experience symptoms similar to Parkinson’s 15 percent more than other workers.
Another study of welders’ brains found damage in the same areas affected by PD among welders. In certain cases, the welders; brain scans showed the damage, yet the subjects claimed they were not experiencing any of the typical neurological symptoms.
Few treatment options exist for manganism patients. Levodopa, a common PD drug, is prescribed to assist with the dopamine-related issues, like tremors and rigidity. Despite its limited efficacy, the replenishment of dopamine by the levodopa can initially assist with the various parkinsonisms, but treatment response diminishes after a couple of years.
Because manganese is a metal, chelation therapy with EDTA, or edetate calcium disodium is another treatment option. Chelation therapy is a procedure involving a chelating agent (in this case EDTA) to remove heavy metals from the body. The administration of the chelating agent may occur intramuscularly, orally or intravenously depending on the specific metal poisoning. While effective, the process must be conducted carefully because numerous side effects exist, including death.
Welding Rod Attorney?
Exposure to manganese can have permanent and devastating effects on your health. If you or someone you loved was a welder and are experiencing neurological problems related to manganism, contact us today to speak with one of our personal injury attorneys familiar with manganese exposure.
History of Manganese Poisoning
Lawsuits related to welders and manganese began in the 1970s, but it was not a new issue. In 1932, an industrial doctor in Germany described two of his welding patients experiencing ringing ears, sleeplessness, sudden sweating, speech issues, balance problems and dizziness. The doctor concluded the manganese fumes caused the nervous disorders and urged companies to explain the risks to workers.
Five years later, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company published a welding-safety booklet explaining that manganese was a poison linked to a disease called ‘paralysis agitans,’ also known as Parkinson’s. After creating a scare, welding companies insisted MetLife rewrite the information.
Occupational Hazards Inc. of Cleveland released an industrial-safety handbook in 1943 detailing the paralyzing effects of manganese and explaining how the fumes could cause those exposed to become incapacitated for life and unfit for employment. While the book encouraged employers to install proper ventilation and begin quarterly health checks, suppliers remained aware yet refused to properly inform workers.
An industry trade group called the National Electrical Manufacturers Association insisted upon warning labels in 1949, but welding suppliers refused. The products were sold without the ‘poison’ marking, and more and more manufacturers began to exclude what little warning had been on the labels.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that labels finally caught up to the dangers of manganese exposure. Today, labels explain overexposure to manganese and manganese compounds may cause permanent damage to the central nervous system.