Effects of Exposure to Welding Fume on Lung Function: Results from the German WELDOX Study
The association between exposure to welding fume and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been insufficiently clarified. In this study we assessed the influence of exposure to welding fume on lung function parameters. We investigated forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), FEV1/FVC, and expiratory flow rates in 219 welders. We measured current exposure to respirable particles and estimated a worker’s lifetime exposure considering welding techniques, working conditions and protective measures at current and former workplaces. Multiple regression models were applied to estimate the influence of exposure to welding fume, age, and smoking on lung function. We additionally investigated the duration of working as a welder and the predominant welding technique. The findings were that age- and smoking-adjusted lung function parameters showed no decline with increasing duration, current exposure level, and lifetime exposure to welding fume. However, 15 % of the welders had FEV1/FVC below the lower limit of normal, but we could not substantiate the presence of an association with the measures of exposure. Adverse effects of cigarette smoking were confirmed. In conclusion, the study did not support the notion of a possible detrimental effect of exposure to welding fume on lung function in welders.