Without Masks, Fumes Cause Brain Damage
A series of cases at the Mayo Clinic has identified that damage to the brain can occur from manganese fumes produced during welding. All of the welder patients with neurological complaints shared one thing in common: inadequate ventilation (www.mayoclinic.com
Symptoms varied, but multiple warning signs developed over time, including cognitive problems, headaches and tremor in six of the patients, and trouble maintaining balance in five patients. Each patient was diagnosed with neurotoxicity from welding fumes, and doctors say it is more common than expected. The symptoms resemble Parkinson's disease - with tremor, stiffness, slow movements, and balance difficulties. Lightning-fast twitches occur all over the body, and hearing problems, anxiety, and sleep disorders may be present.
Welding is Fine - If Done Right
"An important finding from our case series analysis is that these patients were not only all welders, but all had a lack of ventilation," says Dr. Keith Josephs, Mayo Clinic neurologist. "They didn't have a mask or were welding in confined spaces."
Dr. Josephs isn't opposed to welding per se, but does advocate safeguards. "Protection is the key ingredient here," he says. "I think that if you have good protection and follow the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines for protection while welding, you're probably safe." Log on to http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/weldingcuttingbrazing/index.html
Dr. Josephs warns that there is no "home run" treatment for manganese neurotoxicity. Many of the patients studied still had symptoms after they began low-manganese diets and stopped exposing themselves to welding fumes, so damage invoked by manganese exposure may be permanent. "It seems to be static or progressive, not reversible," says Dr. Josephs.