NIOSH, WVU Examine Health Effects of Welding Fumes

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in partnership with the West Virginia University Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health (IOEH), will sponsor a seminar on the health effects of welding on July 23-24 in Morgantown, W.Va.

At the seminar, leading experts from around the world will gather to share the latest information in key research areas regarding potential occupational health effects from welding fumes.

Some studies have suggested links between exposures to welding fumes and risks of work-related diseases, including respiratory, reproductive and nervous system impairments, according to NIOSH. However, the available data generally are too limited to offer conclusive answers. The organizations hope the seminar offers some insight into the challenging questions about this issue.

Key topics that will be covered include:

  • Studies on the lung function changes and cancer associated with welding fumes.
  • A new approach to "metal fume fever."
  • Prevalence of Parkinson's disease among welders as well as an overview of neuropsychological literature.
  • The question of whether or not manganese, a component of some welding fumes, plays a role in Parkinsonism.

"Questions about the potential health effects of welding fumes are a subject of ongoing debate among scientists and policymakers," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "At the center of this debate is a vital U.S. industry that employs more than 400,000 men and women. As part of our strategic research to help answer these questions, NIOSH is pleased to join with West Virginia University and other diverse partners to sponsor this prestigious forum."

The symposium also will highlight NIOSH's research program on the potential health effects of welding, which uses a unique, automated welding arm developed at the NIOSH Health Effects Laboratory Division in Morgantown, W.Va.

NIOSH researchers will discuss how this automated welding arm has the ability to generate a consistent concentration of welding fumes, providing for more precise and reliable data, and how it makes the research faster and more efficient, in part by freeing up operators from routine monitoring and maintenance of equipment so they can spend more time on designing new experiments and analyzing data.

More information about NIOSH's welding health effects research program is available at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/welddata.html. For more information about the symposium, visit http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/IOEH/health_effects_of_welding.htm.

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