Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Exposure to soluble barium compounds: an interventional study in arc welders


Soluble barium (Ba) compounds are well-known toxicants. Intoxications are mainly known in an acute form from casual or suicidal oral ingestion. No scientifically based data are available on possible health effects of inhalative exposure to soluble Ba salts at the workplace. Therefore, we investigated 18 welders in an interventional study over 1 week. They performed welding of Ba-containing stick electrodes and self-shielded flux cored wires under conditions similar to real working conditions. The welding fumes contained 31%–37% Ba, more than 90% of which was soluble in acids. Without appropriate preventive measures, a high rate of measurements exceeded the TLV values for total welding fumes of 5 mg/m3 and for soluble Ba of 0.5 mg/m3. The median fume concentrations were 13.2 mg/m3 in stick electrode welding and 12.3 mg/m3 in flux cored wire welding. The median Ba concentrations were 4.4 and 2.0 mg/m3 respectively. An integrated exhaust system built into the gun proved to be efficient in flux cored wire welding. The internal exposure to Ba reached median urine levels up to 101.7 μg/l (normal: below 20 μg/l) and median plasma concentrations of up to 24.7 μg/l (normal: below 8 μg/l). No health impact on the welders could be proven, but hypokalemia may have occurred as a result of the Ba exposure.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Adzhiev BL (1968) Poisoning by a depilatory. Sudebno-medicinskaja Ekspertizia 11:43–44

  2. American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (1986) Documentation of threshold limit values and biological exposure indices, 5th edn. ACGIH, Cincinnati

  3. Angerer J, Schaller K-H (eds) (1988) Analyses of hazardous substances in biological materials, vol 2. VCH, Weinheim

  4. Bauer GCH, Carlsson A, Lindquist B (1959) Metabolism of Ba140 in man. Acta Orthop Scand 16:241–254

  5. Berning J (1975) Hypokalaemia of barium poisoning. Lancet II:110

  6. Brenniman GR, Namekata T, Kojola WH (1979) Cardiovascular disease death rates in communities with elevated levels of barium in drinking water. Environ Res 20:318–324

  7. Brenniman GR, Kojola WH, Lewy PS (1981) High barium levels in public drinking water and its association with elevated blood pressure. Arch Environ Health 36:28–32

  8. Dare PRM, Hewitt PJ, Hicks R, Zober A (1984) Barium in welding fume. Ann Occup Hyg 28:445–448

  9. Dean G (1950) Seven cases of barium carbonate poisoning. Br Med J 250:817–818

  10. Diengott D, Roza O, Levy N (1964) Hypokalaemia in barium poisoning. Lancet II:343–344

  11. Essing HG, Bühlmeyer G, Valentin M, et al (1976) Ausschluß von Gesundheitsstörungen nach langjähriger Bariumcarbonat-Exposition bei der Produktion von Steatitkeramik. Arbeitsmed Sozialmed Präventivmed 11:299–302

  12. Friberg L, Nordberg GF, Vouk VB (eds) (1986) Handbook on the toxicology of metals, 2nd ed. Elsevier, Amsterdam

  13. Gallant EM (1983) Barium-treated mammalian skeletal muscle: similarities to hypokalemic periodic paralysis. J Physiol 335:577–590

  14. German Research Foundation (1991) Maximum concentrations at the workplace and biological tolerance values for working materials 1991. VCH, Weinheim

  15. Gould DB, Sorrell MR, Lupariello AD (1973) Barium sulfide poisoning. Arch Intern Med 132:891–894

  16. Habicht W, Smekal P v., Etzrodt H (1970) Verlauf und Behandlung einer Barium-Vergiftung. Med Welt 21:1292–1295

  17. Harrison GE, Carr TEF, Sutton A (1966) Plasma concentration and excretion of calcium-47, strontium-85, barium-133 and radium-223 following successive intravenous doses to a healthy man. Nature 209:526–527

  18. Harrison GE, Carr TEF, Sutton A (1967) Distribution of radioactive calcium, strontium, barium and radium following intravenous injection into a healthy man. Int J Radiat Biol 13:235–247

  19. International Labour Office (1983) Encyclopaedia of occupational health and safety, vol 1. ILO, Geneva

  20. Jung K, Scholz D (1980) An optimized assay of alanine aminopeptidase activity in urine. Clin Chem 26:1251–1254

  21. Kojola WH, Brenniman GR, Carnow BW (1979) A review on environmental characteristics and health effects of barium in water supplies. Rev Environ Health 3:79–95

  22. Lewi Z, Bar-Khayim Y (1964) Food poisoning from barium carbonate. Lancet II:342–343

  23. Maruhn D (1976) Rapid colorimetric assay of β-galactosidase andN-acetyl-β-glucosaminidase in human urine. Clin Chim Acta 73:453–461

  24. Minoia C, Sabbioni E, Apostoli P, et al (1990) Trace element reference values in tissues from inhabitants of the European Community. I. A study of 46 elements in urine, blood and serum of Italian subjects. Sci Total Environ 95:89–105

  25. Moreton J, Carter GJ, Worrall DA (1981) Flux cored wire welding — fume emission rates and fume composition. The Welding Inst Res Bull (GB) Febr. 1981:35–39

  26. Morton W (1945) Poisoning by barium carbonate. Lancet 249:738–739

  27. Oldenburg T (1988) Vergleichende Bewertung von Schweißrauchen bei Verwendung chrom-, nickel- oder bariumhaltiger Schweißzusatzwerkstoffe. Schweißtechnische Forschungsberichte vol 21. German Welding Society (DVS), Düsseldorf

  28. Preisz KR (1956) Über Barium-Vergiftungen. Z Arztl Fortbild (Jena) 50:110–112

  29. Roza O, Berman LB (1971) The pathophysiology of barium: hypokalemic and cardiovascular effects. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 177:433–439

  30. Schramel P, Lill G, Hasse S (1985) Mineral- und Spurenelemente im menschlichen Urin. J Clin Chem Clin Biochem 23:293–301

  31. Schroeder HD, Tipton IH, Nason AP (1972) Trace metals in man: strontium and barium. J Chron Dis 25:491–517

  32. Shankle R, Keane JR (1988) Acute paralysis from inhaled barium carbonate. Arch Neurol 45:579–580

  33. Shine KI, Douglas AM, Ricchiuti NV (1975) Calcium, strontium and barium movements during ischemia and reperfusion in rabbit ventricle. Circ Res 43:712–720

  34. Spoor NL (1964) The toxic hazard associated with barium chloride as a constituent of a ternary eutectic salt used as a fire extinguishant. Ann Occup Hyg 7:369–372

  35. Syed IB, Hosain F, Mann NS (1981) Gastrointestinal secretion of barium — an experimental study. Am J Proctol Gastroenterol Colon Rectal Surg 31:11–12

  36. Talwar KK, Sharma BK (1979) Myocardial damage due to barium chloride poisoning. Ind Heart J 31:244–245

  37. Wetherill SF, Guarino MJ, Cox RW (1981) Acute renal failure associated with barium chloride poisoning. Ann Intern Med 95:187–188

  38. Woll KH (1982) The effect of internal barium on the K current of the node of Ranvier. Pflugers Arch 393:318–321

  39. World Health Organization (1990) Environmental health criteria, vol 107: barium. WHO, Geneva

  40. Zschiesche W, Emmerling G, Schaller K-H, Weltle D (1989) Arbeitsmedizinische Untersuchungen zur Toxizität löslicher Barium-Verbindungen aus Schweißrauchen. Forschungsberichte Humanisierung des Arbeitslebens der Schweißer, vol 16. German Welding Society (DVS), Düsseldorf

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to W. Zschiesche.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Zschiesche, W., Schaller, K.-. & Weltle, D. Exposure to soluble barium compounds: an interventional study in arc welders. Int. Arch Occup Environ Heath 64, 13–23 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00625946

Download citation

Key words

  • Soluble barium
  • Welding fumes
  • Cast welding
  • Self-shielded flux cored wires
  • Personal air sampling
  • Biological monitoring
  • Electrolytes