Welding and Manganese Poisoning
Exposure to metal fumes from welding, cutting and brazingespecially in confined spacescan cause brain damage. A major culprit is manganese, a component of all steel and major welding materials. Manganese has been known to cause the degenerative brain disorder known as Parkinsonism since 1837. A recent study found 40 percent of welders showed signs of the disorder. Many physicians are unaware of manganese poisoning or the risks of exposures in steel making and welding as stated on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).
Symptoms of manganese poisoning include tremors, shakes, loss of balance, slowed movement, walking problems, impotency, slurred speech, extreme drowsiness or nighttime leg cramps. Because the symptoms are similar, welders may be mistakenly diagnosed with Parkinsons disease, ALS (Lou Gehrigs disease) or MS (multiple sclerosis).
If you have any of these symptoms, go to your doctor as soon as possible. Bring a copy of the MSDS for welding rods and other related materials you commonly use.
If you do not have any of these symptoms:
Workers in the trades are often exposed to occupational health risks. Tell your doctor about your job and request a personal health risk evaluation.
July/August 2003 IBEW Journal