Welding Fumes May Contain Manganese

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Welders’ Brain Scans Showed Manganese Poisoning from Welding Fumes

ROCHESTER, MN — July 29, 2005 — Eight welders who were patients at the Mayo clinic had brain abnormalities consistent with the accumulation of manganese, a metal released by some welding fumes (Neurology 2005 Jun 28;64(12):2033-9. Epub 2005 May 11). Workers may breathe in harmful welding fumes if they are not properly protected.

In this case, the welders worked at poorly ventilated job sites and did not use personal respirators. One employee had crawled in confined spaces in welding areas where no exhaust ventilation was available. Most performed metal inert gas welding, usually involving stainless or galvanized steel.

Many of the welders ended up with “Parkinsonism,” or symptoms that are similar to those of Parkinson’s disease. These include poor balance, memory loss, unsteady gait, slowed movements (“bradykinesia”) and tremors. Some of the welders also had headaches, hearing loss, and “myoclonus,” a term for sudden, jerky, involuntary movements. None of these conditions appeared to be reversible, except in one welder. He was treated with EDTA or edetate calcium disodium, a substance that is supposed to bind with manganese, lower its toxic effects, and help excrete it from the body.

All the clinical problems experienced by the welders suggested a disturbance of their central nervous systems and brains. Their brains were scanned using Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI scans. The tests revealed increased activity in the part of the brain called the globus pallidus, a result that implies high concentrations of manganese. An abnormality in the globus pallidus is also linked to movement disorders.

“In the setting of prominent manganese exposure in the environment, as occurred in these otherwise healthy welders, there are no other reasonable explanations than the [welding] fume exposure for the damage present in the MRI findings,” concluded Dr. Keith Josephs, a lead author of the study (Medical News Today, June 9, 2005). Dr. Patrick Boque, another neurologist at the Mayo Clinic commented, “It's clear there are all sorts of toxic fumes given off by welding, and manganese is one of them” (Channel 5 News, KSDK, St. Louis, July 8, 2005). He emphasized the importance of safety precautions and better conditions to limit exposure to welding fumes.

For further details about the contents and hazards of welding fumes, see Welding Fumes and Other Hazards. If you would like information about exposure to welding fumes and your legal options, please feel free to contact us at Brayton Purcell. We have been handling medical/legal cases for over 20 years, including those involving exposure to toxic substances.