Welding rods are also known as welding electrodes. Welding rods create a fusion of two pieces of metal in the welding process; they reinforce the bond, making it more durable. Asbestos welding rods was once used, and the asbestos usually found as a part of the flux surrounding the rod itself. It was used to slow the burn of the flux, to keep it from igniting at higher amperage. The other purpose that asbestos served was to add tensile strength to the final bond. The most common were welding rods that both contained asbestos and were coated with asbestos. Some welding rods were coated with and contained blue asbestos, the most lethal asbestos mineral.
In the welding process, dust and smoke will generate from the asbestos welding rods. This dust is small particles of the metal being welded which in many instances included asbestos, nickel, chromium, manganese, silica, zinc, sulfur and carbon monoxide. In some older cases, lead may have also been present.
Inhaling this substance is extremely harmful to welders, if not aware of the health risks and not wearing proper protective gear. After the actual welding, the second step in the process involves grinding down extraneous welding matter which also forces asbestos particles into the air. The asbestos fibers inhaled from the welding fumes and grinding dust will stick in the lungs and cause inflammation leading to terminal mesothelioma decades later.
Dangerous protective gear
Even in instances where protective gear might have been worn, the gear itself may have posed health risks in the old days. Often the clothes or protective wear contained asbestos to make them fire-proof and heat resistant. Welders often wore gloves made with asbestos and used asbestos blankets to ward off high levels of heat. If any of these garments became worn, asbestos fibers could easily be released into the air and welders were once again at risk of inhaling harmful asbestos fibers.
Although most asbestos use in the manufacture of welding products was phased out during the 1980s, millions of asbestos-containing welding rods were sold before regulations took effect. Even today, more than two decades later, it is possible that many welding rods containing asbestos are still on hardware and welding supply store shelves.
In nations where asbestos is still legal to use, welding rods coated with asbestos are still on the market.
In developed nations today, industrial disease from asbestos exposure from welding are now common.
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