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Research Topics Experimental investigation of respiratory and systemic effects of subchronic welding fume inhalation in mouse model with special regard to Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding process, ozone emission and the metal fume fever syndrome

Experimental investigation of respiratory and systemic effects of subchronic welding fume inhalation in mouse model with special regard to Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding process, ozone emission and the metal fume fever syndrome

For preserving the health of the welders all the exposures, its effects and risks should have been understood and controlled during the processes. In our project, we would like to achieve deeper understand of the effect of fume exposure caused by TIG welding process using mouse model in the experiments. Also, we plan to compare these effects with the exposure effects of MIG/MAG and MMA effects, either by parallel exposure experiments or comparing our results with literature data.

We plan to implement inhalation of freshly generated welding fume, this is replicating the real life conditions much better than the intratracheal instillation process. In our investigations mice will be exposed to diluted welding fume up to 8 hours a day for one or two weeks to simulate the exposure of the welders. Before, during and after the exposure the respiratory functions of the treated and untreated control animals will be recorded by whole body plethysmographycal method. After the treatment, groups of animals will be sacrificed and lung, kidney, liver, spleen lymph nodes and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) samples will be collected for analysis.

The samples will be analyzed chemically and histopathologically to find structural changes and damages. The BALF fluid will be tested for total protein level, inflammatory cytokines, free cell content and radioactive thorium content as mentioned in several literatures.

However, several investigations of the metal fume fever has been made but still the mechanism of the development of it is not completely understood. We are intended to establish an animal model to recreate the syndrome and monitor its development immunologically and biochemically.

 

 

Several investigations have been made to uncover the effects of welding fume inhalation. Some of these were based on health record of human welders, others used animal models to analyze the material deposition in the lungs and the fate of these particles after sorter and longer period of exposure.

Another syndrome that is known among welders is the so called “metal fume fever”, which develops after longer exposure of zinc containing fume. The connection between the ZnO content and the syndrome is established long ago by several investigations but the exact pathomechanism is still unclear.

In our research longer exposition time than previous experiments will be used, to mimic the exposure rate of human welders, who are working for tens of years. Our main goal is to determine the effects of the TIG process since this method is often used to join high alloy steels with high Cr, Mn and other metal content and also it is done sometimes in small, confined spaces with poor ventilation like internal area of tanks and tubes.

Our other goal is to recreate and follow up the development of metal fume fever syndrome. With monitoring the cellular and humoral changes in the mice immune system we can get closer to the real mechanism behind this syndrome.

Since we will cooperate with the Material Science and Technology of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics during our experiments, there will be opportunities to immediately use our results for developing new or modifying existing welding technologies to produce less emission but keep the welded joint quality as required. Also, possible hidden risks could be discovered and eliminated or lowered in the technology.

 

Different technologies are developed for joining ferrous and non-ferrous metal parts. Among them the most important electric processes are the Metal Inert/Active Gas (MIG/MAG) welding, the Tungsten Inert Gas welding (TIG) and the Manual Metal Arc welding processes. However, the automatization of the welding methods in manufacturing have undergone a great development recently, the welding work are still performed mostly by human welders all over the world. In manufacturing purposes TIG welding method is usually used for fine joining of high alloy steels, aluminum and its alloys and special alloys. However, the TIG process generates much less visible fume and smoke compared to the other arc welding methods, the generated fume can be even more risky to the personnel since the mentioned general use of the method to join high Cr, Ti, Mo, Ni, Al, Mn etc. containing metals and the method is usually performed manually by welders. Some of these metals were examined in the past and more or less proved as malicious or even carcinogen. According to the literature, by the time now MIG/MAG and MMA welding processes fume emission and the respiration effects of them were much more investigated then the emission and effects of TIG method.

We strongly hope that data collected in the planed project will be helpful to develop more safe and less malicious welding methods and more secure protection devices and strategies in the future. Also we would like to contribute to improve the international and Hungarian welding- and work safety standards by presenting our results to the International Institute of Welding (IIW) and to the Committee of Work Safety of Welding in Hungary.

Also, during the project we would like to set up and develop a laboratory that will be capable to accommodate further industrial-, environmental-, or occupational toxicology experiments. In this laboratory we would like to create opportunity to integrate technological and biological science and research fields to facilitate the deeper understanding and interactions between these rather distant fields of sciences.

 

Metal welding is one of the most important joining methods in industrial manufacturing all around the world. Thus many hundred-thousand workers in the world are involved in full- or part time job, and suffer from the chemical, thermal, radiation and other expositions of the welding. Since welding requires high skills these workers are precious human resources of the manufacturers and often there is shortage from skilled enough personnel on this field for example in our country as well. In this aspect it can be concluded that welding has high economical and healthcare impact.

With our experiments we want to gather data about the inhalation risks of the fume generated by Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding process, which is wildly used for joining stainless steel, high alloy steels or aluminum workpieces in the industry. Since these materials are containing metals like chromium, manganese, molybdenum, titan, nickel which are proven to be capable to cause lung problems, toxicosis and even cancer, it is very important to avoid the inhalation of these malicious metal particles.

Metal fume fever syndrome is known for long time ago as a flu-like disease among welders who are working with zinc coated steels. Although several investigations have been made, the exact cause and mechanism of the disease is still not known. In our project we will recreate and examine in fine details the disease in experimental animals to understand the mechanism behind it and to be able to create protective measures for the welders against the disease.

Utilizing these data we will be able to modify the technology and apply more safe rules to protect the welders health more than it is done these days.

The research program is supported by the Grant FK 129055.

Topic Owner
Csaba Kovago PhD