Last updated: April 1, 2020 By Arvin Reynold
You already know that you can get skin cancer from the radiation emitted from the sun, right? Today, I will talk about welding radiation; exposure to which is no less risky than the radiation from the sun.
The problem gets worse with welding radiation. Not only it may cause skin cancer as a result of long-term exposure, but it may also cause other several deadly problems to the welder’s other body parts.
Even if you have been welding for a couple of years, you should learn about it nonetheless. Or maybe you are just playing with your mini welding machine at home to make yourself comfortable. You should have knowledge about this topic as well.
The objective of this article is to give you a picture of how unprotected welding can damage your skin and eyes.
Types of Welding Radiation
Depending on how close you get exposed to the radiation, you get affected by different types of radiation. Technically it is called the wavelength. Yes, welding arcs emit radiation over a broad range of wavelengths.
Depending on how far the wavelength is, we can classify the radiation as ultraviolet radiation (UVR), visible light, and infrared radiation (IR). Look at their wavelength:
- If the wavelength is from 200 nm (nanometers) to 400 nm – it is known as UVR. URV is also classified as UV-A(for distance from 315 to 400 nm), UV-B (if the distance is from 280 to 315 nm) and UV-C (for 100 to 280 nm distance). If you are exposed long enough to any of these UVR, you will get welding arc eye.
Keep in mind that UVR classification because very shortly I will be explaining their impact on welder’s health.
- To call it ‘Visible Light’, the wavelength ranges from 400 to 700 nm.
- If the wavelength ranges from 700 to 1,400 nm, we call it Infrared Radiation (IR).
Ultraviolet Rays Impact On Skin
UV-A penetrates the skin of the welder more than its other two types but does not damage the DNA. As a welder, there will almost no skin malignancy due to the UV-A type.
The impact of UV-B is deadly for the welder’s skin though it’s a contribution to the UV radiation is only 2%. Long-term exposure to such radiation will lead to DNA damage and ultimately skin cancer.
The amount of UV-C is insignificant but the impact on human skin is not clear. Most people consider it as deadly as the UV-B.
As the distance between the arc and the welder’s skin is really insignificant, the impact of UV-B & C is considered to be deadly if exposed to such radiation without minimum protection.
But don’t get scared!
Several studies and research shows that they found no direct relationship between skin cancer and welding where the standard welding safety precautions were followed.
Yes, they have found a link to the skinerythema& small burns from the welding, but no skin cancer.
Protective welding gears will not only save you from the deadly skin cancer, but it can also save you from the ocular melanoma too. Remember, those same researchers have found a direct relationship between welding and ocular melanoma.
Will It Cause Sunburn?
If you are familiar with the sunburn from the welding, pay attention here no matter what arc welding you are onto. Yes, the radiation from the welding won’t create any browning effect of the sunburn but can create a reddening effect on your skin.
Sometimes blisters may form on your skin too under extreme cases. Eventually, the skin dies and may flake off too.
Ultraviolet Rays Impact On Eyes
Several studies have shown that long-term exposure to such ultraviolet rays can cause cataracts. In case you don’t know, cataract means losing eye-vision slowly over a long time.
Apart from the UV rays, bright light from the welding can make you temporarily blind and if that happens continuously for a long time, the damage to your eyes is severe.
If you are not wearing any auto-darkening welding helmet at all, such intense visible light from the welding can damage the optically sensitive nerves of your eyes by damaging the lens and cornea.
Safety Measures Against Welding Radiation
The closer you are to the arc; you are getting the more increased UVR exposure. Also, if you use argon gas instead of helium, or if you weld aluminum instead of iron or stainless steel, you are getting increased exposure to the UVR.
Almost every arc welding process involves generating ultraviolet rays. So, how to minimize the effect of such exposure to UVR? That’s really easy! Always wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
From protective gloves to welding cloths; wear everything! Your specialized clothes for welding should cover your arms fully. During the hot summer, wearing such protective clothes may be uncomfortable.
If you are an occasional welder who performs small home project using mini welding machine may find wearing such clothes really uncomfortable. So, what to do about it?
Well, while there is no alternative wearing protective clothes while welding, at least tries to use sunscreen to your exposed skin while welding.
But if you deal with aluminum welding, you are at the greatest exposure to UVR. So, wearing a protective cloth like leather welding jackets is strongly recommended. Now, let’s talk about eye protection.
Arc welding & any kind of cutting process emit infrared radiation that directly affects the retina of your eyes. So, wearing a welding helmet along with protective glasses is always a must.
The welder is not the only one who is at the risk of such radiation. Anybody around the vicinity of the welder is also at the same risk. So, if anybody has to be around you while welding, make sure they wear the protective gears too.
From professional researchers to independent researchers, lots of people have done their study to see the effect of arc radiation over the health and safety of the welders. I just summarized the results above.
Enough talk about welding radiation, don’t you think? If welding is your profession or even if this is just your part-time hobby, you need to address it seriously. Because you can’t completely get rid of it, so, it’s better to take preventive measures.