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

Summary

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.

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Correspondence to W. Zschiesche.

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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

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Key words

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