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Stainless Steel Welders Exposed To Hexavalent Chromium – A Cancer Causing Substance

If you need an evaluation of stainless steel welders who are exposed to hexavalent chromium discussed in this article call us at 1-800-344-4414 or email us at info@atlenv.com for details and a free estimate.

Written by Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President

November 7, 2018, Updated May 2019

Hexavalent Chromium Cancer-Causing Substance

Welding on stainless steel can expose welders to hexavalent chromium, also called Chrome 6, or Chrome (VI), which is a suspect cancer-causing substance now specifically regulated by OSHA (General Industry 29 CFR 1910.1026 and Construction 29 CFR 1926.1126). (Go to OSHA.gov/law-regs—the specific regulations are found under “General Industry’ and “Construction”).

Overexposure to Hexavalent Chromium

The potential for overexposure to hexavalent chromium is a real one due to the fact that the allowable limit, the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) was set at 5 ug/M3 for an eight-hour workday and an action level of 2.5 ug/M3.

The more intense the welding task—such as stick welding with chrome containing welding rods— (stick welding is also called SMAW – Shielded Metal Are Welding) the more likely an overexposure will occur. The more time a welder spends working on stainless steel in a workday, the more likely an overexposure to hexavalent chromium will occur.

Other Forms of Welding

Other forms of welding, besides on stainless steel, may also subject a welder to chromium exposure. Most steel alloys have some chromium in them where it reduces corrosion and increases flexibility. The OSHA standard instituted in 2006, requires monitoring of each welding activity where the potential for exposure to hex chrome exists. This personnel sampling/testing will determine if an overexposure exists or an action level is exceeded and if so, what action is required to reduce the hexavalent chromium exposure to a safe level. Monitoring is also required to determine if respiratory protection is required and what is the suitable protection for the particular level of exposure. If the PEL or action level is exceeded the standard requires repeat sampling at either three months or six-month intervals until 2 successive samplings are below the action level.

Other Exposures

It is also important to note that welders may also be exposed to other inhalation hazards with work on other metal materials. This includes Manganese—now implicated in causing Parkinson’s type tremors— and also found is the stick of “Stick Welding”. Lead, copper, beryllium, zinc, cadmium, nickel, and other fume emissions from the welding process are additional components of welding fume from welding on stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum or other metals that require a weld to fuse metal surfaces.

Steps to Stop Exposure

The first step is to perform monitoring of welders who may work on hex chrome containing metals. Such testing/sampling can be performed by an Industrial Hygienist who has the education and experience to address worker exposure and OSHA regulatory compliance and can assist in developing an exposure control plan and remediation plan where necessary.

Contact Atlantic Environmental using our contact form or call us at 800-344-4414 to discuss your hexavalent chromium exposure concerns and see how our environmental professional consultants can help you.

Our primary service areas for Hex Chrome-Welding Fume/Sampling/Testing are: NJ, NY, NYC, PA, CT, DE, (Boston) MA, RI, Wash DC, WI, MD, MI, (Chicago) IL, VA, IN, (Atlanta) GA, AL, NC, SC, TN, (Dallas, Ft Worth) TX, OK, DC, AR, we can service most other areas of the U.S. but with some added travel charges.

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