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Technicians, engineers, and mechanics use welding all the time. A little time back, I read about the European Directive’s report to apply new legislation. The legislation was for employers to calculate the EMF radiation in the work field for the safety of workers during welding.
This encouraged me to research the topic. Is welding a safe task? Does the process expose the workers to EMF radiation? Let us find out .
Does welding emit EMF radiation? Welding emits high levels of radiation including electric fields, magnetic fields, and radio frequency fields. The radiation has a serious impact on the health of the welders. It is important to use precautionary methods to minimize the impact.
In this article, I will talk about everything that makes the process of welding unsafe. I will also share how workers can stay safe when welding.
In simple words, welding is a process in which two or more parts are joined by using heat or pressure. In some cases, both heat and pressure are used.
The process of welding works for metals, thermoplastics and sometimes even for wood.
Welding is not an easy task. To perform it safely, the workers need to wear many layers of protection. The usual protective gear recommended for welding includes:
- Face mask with a dark window
- Protective hat made of flame-resistant materials
- Long pants
- Shirt or just sleeves
- Welding leathers
Too much, right? All this gear is necessary. There is heat, sparks, and dripping metals. A welder has to protect his/her arms, legs and torso.
In case someone doesn’t use proper protection when welding, there can be minor to major injuries. In severe cases, the user can even face disability.
Is Welding Safe?
Following the protection protocol and wearing the protective gear is necessary for safe welding experience.
The EMF radiation from welding is a serious health concern. But that is not the only thing to worry about. The welding process is very dangerous and yields radiation, heat, and sparks.
Radiation from Welding
Two types of radiation are produced when you are welding the iron.
1. UV Rays
Welding is a source of harmful UV rays. The prolonged exposure to UV rays can lead to several problems including skin cancer.
When welding, the UV rays can seep in the skin of your face. This increases the risk of face cancer.
To protect yourself from the UV rays, you should wear a protective mask.
2. Infrared Radiation
Another type of radiation that comes from welding is infrared radiation.
The infrared radiation is also used to:
- Treat cancerous cells
- Heat food in a microwave
Infrared radiation can cause internal damage to the body.
To avoid the damage from infrared radiation during welding, use a mask. A mask will reduce the amount of radiation that your body absorbs.
Other Hazards from Welding
As I mentioned earlier, radiation is not the only concern when talking about welding. Let us take a look at some of the other hazards from welding.
1. Light Sensitivity
A big problem during welding is the bright light. The bright light is very damaging for human eyes.
It can cause several eye problems. The most common one being light sensitivity.
Light sensitivity may make it difficult for you to see in sunlight and bright lights. It will also mean that you won’t be able to weld again.
If you look at the bright light without wearing a mask, it can cause great damage.
Therefore, never avoid wearing protective goggles or masks when welding.
2. Damage to Retina
Another problem associated with the bright light of welding is that it may cause permanent damage to your eye.
A permanent retinal damage means you can get a serious eye condition. This includes cataract, trouble seeing and blindness.
Once again, never forget to wear your protective goggles. If you have done that in the past (even just a few times), it may already have caused damage.
In such a case, I would recommend consulting with an eye doctor. In fact, all welders should get regular eye exams.
3. Heat from Welding
Extreme heat emits during the process of welding. It is uncomfortable and damaging.
The heat from welding can cause some problems including burnt eyebrows, blisters on the skin, etc.
It is important to use your protective mask and gear to avoid damage from heat.
4. Sparks during Welding
Like heat, sparks emit during the process of welding. They fly up and around the welding surface and can land on anything in their proximity.
The sparks can cause damage when they come in contact with your skin.
Sparks can cause deep skin burns especially on the face. They can also get in the eyes. This can be very harmful and may cause pain or permanent damage.
Yes, you guessed it. Your protective gear is your best protection.
Welding, EMFs, and Safety
Welding is among one of the most high-risk occupations for workers. The exposure to the electromagnetic fields is hazardous.
It is the employer’s job to ensure safety of welders. However, the territory of EMF is a new one and people are still learning about it.
Governments are trying to implement laws that make it the employer’s responsibility to make the working environment a safe place for workers.
The EMFs from welding are non-ionizing radiation. They can cause serious and permanent damage to human health.
In the past 7 decades, researches and studies have been conducted to solve the enigma of EMF and its association with serious diseases and conditions.
Studies prove the links to leukemia, cancer, brain tumors, neurological damage, sterility and heart problems.
So, what is the American Welding Society doing about this?
According to the American Welding Society, there is ‘no confirmed evidence of heart problems from EMF.’
But do we have proof to counter the argument?
In a Swedish case-control study, the report says, “There was an overall increased risk for all tumors of the endocrine glands for individuals who had been welding sometime during the follow-up.” In the report, the researchers also found an increase in damages to adrenal glands and pituitary glands due to EMF exposure.
As a result of the studies and their overwhelming reports, the European organization is now showing a serious interest. They are trying o implement safety legislations to promote employers to maintain a safe environment for welders.
Moreover, they are also stressing employers to monitor and limit the welder’s exposure to the EMF from welding.
What can you do as a welder to ensure your safety?
As I keep saying this, as individuals it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. Educating yourself and the people around you about EMF radiation, its possible damages and the precautions you can use—is the best thing you can do to help your welder friends.
Read this article and share it to spread the word.
So, let us start.
How are Electromagnetic Fields created during Welding?
Electromagnetic fields are created during all forms of welding that use electricity.
A machine source provides power and generates high currents in arc welding. The currents run through an attached power wire. The wire carries the current to a torch and an electrode.
It also carries power to the welding-arc and the workpiece of the welding machine. The electric current then returns to the power source by running through a ground cable.
EMF Radiation in Arc Welding
Along the entire circuit, the flow of the electric current produces electromagnetic fields of different magnitudes.
The higher the current, the higher the electromagnetic fields it produces.
The areas where the welder’s body is in proximity to the components of the electric circuit are also a great source of EMF. This includes machines, cables, torch, and workpiece.
When the welder is close to the zones with high electromagnetic fields, the high levels of EMF radiation alters the blood flow. These alterations cause many harmful effects.
The parts of a welder’s body that are in the most vulnerable position to get affected by EMF radiation are:
- The area from the torso to the thighs
- Genital organs
In high-frequency welding, everything from the equipment and the components including the inverters and pulsed welding processes produce strong electromagnetic fields.
They radiate intense levels of radiation. This is very dangerous for human health.
How does the EMF radiation from Welding affect the human body?
There are 70 trillion cells in the human body. When you are in proximity to high levels of electromagnetic fields, these cells start vibrating in response to the radiation.
The exposure to Radiofrequency radiation for longer durations of time causes the Calcium in the cell membranes to start leaking. This is a common result of EMF radiation in both animal and human bodies.
The leakage and the vibrations can cause the cells in their bodies to start functioning abnormally. The results can be in the form of:
- Cell mutation instead of replication
- The cells in the human body may stop functioning at all.
As a result, a variety of problems can be triggered. These include:
- Radiation sickness
- Skin cancer
- Brain tumors
- Neurogenerative disease
These effects include:
- Alterations in the flow and function of normal blood cells
- Human blood cells contain mineral iron. As a result, the blood cells start forming long chains in the bloodstream.
- To understand this, imagine how iron fillings form a pattern around a magnet. The long chains in the bloodstream respond in the same way.
- Even exposure of only ten minutes can trigger harmful responses in the human body.
Safety Regulations for the EMF Radiation from Welding
It is hard to regulate the EMF levels radiating in our environment. Especially at workplaces, there is no way to ensure 100% EMF radiation regulation.
As I mentioned earlier, to implement workplace safety from EMF radiation for welders, the Government must intervene.
In European countries, an initiative started in 2013 and was passed in 2017. The bill is called the Physical Agents Directive 2013/35/EU.
The specific purpose of the Act is to ensure workplace safety from EMF levels. It requires all European companies to monitor the exposure levels of electromagnetic fields.
It also enforces them to implement countermeasures to ensure the safety of the welders in zones of high-level radiation.
Use this link to download and read the full copy of the “Guide for Implementing Directive 2013/35.EU on Electromagnetic Fields.”
Methods of Mitigating the Exposure from Electromagnetic Fields during Welding
1. Use an EMF Meter to Monitor the Levels
To prevent your exposure to intense levels of EMF radiation, calculate the radiation levels when welding. To do this, you can use an EMF meter.
An EMF meter is a device that measures the:
- Electric fields
- Magnetic fields
- Radiofrequency fields.
You can use these handy devices to determine the high levels of radiation radiating from the EMF sources.
2. Routing the Cables & Electrode
If the work cables are routed together with the electrode, the electromagnetic fields reduce greatly.
To do this, simply secure the cables and electrodes with a tie wrap or tape.
You can also buy welding cables that have both cables and electrodes together.
3. Check Your Position
When working, make sure you are not in a position between the electrode and work cables.
For instance: if the electrode is on your left side, the cables should be on the left as well.
There is an electromagnetic field between each welding cable. So, make sure to check your position when welding.
4. Avoid Proximity
When you are welding right next to a welding power source, your exposure to the EMF levels increases. Therefore, staying at a safe distance can minimize exposure.
5. Low-Level DC Power
You can also reduce the exposure to EMF radiation by welding at the lowest Direct Current power output. Choose the low values of DC power that work well with your welding equipment.
6. EMF Blocking Gear
Other than your usual protective work gear, you can use additional EMF shielding products. The products include clothing, caps, etc. They can help you in reducing or blocking EMF levels.
The EMF radiation from welding is a matter of serious concern. Welders spend so much time working next to the high-level electromagnetic fields from welding equipment.
The governments across the world are trying to implement methods to ensure the safety of the workers. However, it is important to learn about the harmful impacts and, use methods that can help in minimizing them.