Manganese particulates are a common component of weld fumes. The high temperatures involved with welding create extremely small particulates that can travel deeply into the lungs. These particulates have proven to be a serious health hazard. Studies show that exposure to manganese dust can produce memory loss and other disruptions to the central nervous system. Excessive exposure can cause Manganism, a disorder with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease.
OSHA has set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for manganese at 5 mg/m3 as a ceiling, meaning particulate volumes cannot exceed this level at any time.
Here are four steps to reduce exposure to manganese:
- The first step in cutting dangerous substances like manganese from weld fumes is to consider process improvements. By looking at your processes, you might be able to identify changes you can make which will reduce your fumes without any major expenses or hassles. For example, if you are using flux-core wire, one of the best changes you can make is to shift to solid-core wire. This wire produces much less smoke and fewer dangerous particulates.
- Next, consider engineering controls such as a high-efficiency source capture system. For example, a backdraft table or fume gun can capture weld fumes at the source with a high degree of efficiency—usually over 90% if used correctly. These devices can connect to a powerful filtration system, such as the RoboVent Senturion collector. This equipment ensures that manganese particles and other weld fumes don’t travel through a welder’s breathing zone. Robotic applications should be kept under hoods whenever possible.
- If source capture alone does not bring particulates down to acceptable levels, consider adding an ambient air filtration system to clean the air throughout an entire facility.
- When engineering controls along do not keep manganese exposure within OSHA permissible exposure limits, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR’s) can be used for workers at risk. Proper training and consistent use of these devices are crucial for their effectiveness. Remember that OSHA considers PPE to be a last resort; engineering controls must be used whenever it is technically feasible.