• Geoff Mitchell
    Geoff Mitchell

Here are eight reasons you should ensure that your technicians have fume extraction. Air fed units will protect the person welding but not other staff in the workshop. Thanks to Geoff Mitchell from I-CAR for this information.

1. Aluminium dust is explosive

Automotive grades of aluminium are alloyed with different substrates for differing strengths, the 6000 series aluminium is alloyed with bauxite and magnesium and silicon. The 5000 series aluminium is alloyed with bauxite, magnesium and manganese. The fine dust emitted when sanding aluminium will float for a very long time in the workshop and is very explosive if it comes into contact with an ignition source which could be as simple as a welding spark or static spark. Any extraction system used for aluminium dust must be a non-static system where the dust collector is separate to the motor driving the extraction system.

2. Long-term effects of welding fumes

When welding automotive steels or aluminium the weld zone gives off harmful fumes. There is a condition called metal welding fever which is the short term effect where technicians will feel lethargic often with flu-like symptoms. But there are more long-term health effects from welding without adequate fume extraction or respirators.
Prolonged exposure to welding fumes may cause lung damage and various types of cancers, including lung, larynx and urinary tract. Health effects from certain fumes may include, stomach ulcers, kidney damage and nervous system damage.

3. Aluminium fumes cause...

Welding aluminium produces gases and particles which are harmful, extraction is vital to protect the welder. When welding aluminium materials, aluminium oxide is formed from the filler material and the base material. The aluminium oxides are present in the welding fumes. The oxide occurs in the form of spherical particles. Breathing in these particles can put a strain on respiratory tracts and affect lungs if the particles are deposited there. Respiratory diseases such as bronchitis can occur as a result of this harmful substance. The dust deposits can even bring about irreversible aluminosis, also known as aluminium lung.
Another issue is ozone. Ozone is a highly toxic, chemically reactive gas, and can cause lung damage. It is produced from oxygen in the atmosphere around the welding area. Control of exposure to ozone can be difficult. It should be noted that cell damage due to ozone inhalation is permanent and irreversible.

4. Can you still smell the products you use?

All products used in our industry have a particular smell. These odours are added to products so you are aware you are inhaling them and are encouraged to use fume extraction or respirators. The problem is if you can no longer smell a product you have become desensitised, which in turn means you have no idea it is harming you any more. A respirator may protect the person applying the product but the fumes are now also present within the nearby area which can affect others. Using fume extraction will protect everybody in the workshop.

5. Health and vehicle protection issues relating to plastics and composites

Our industry uses several different composites in vehicle construction including carbon fibre and reinforced plastics. Any product which contains fibre for strength will have adverse effects if inhaled when sanding the products. The dust is far lighter than steel dust and will float through a workshop for hours. Without sufficient fume extraction at the job these hazards are spread throughout the workshop.
Carbon fibre dust can irritate eyes, throat and skin and the fine fibres in the dust can become embeded in a technician’s lungs. Carbon fibres are electrically conductive, and dust or waste can cause short-circuits within electrical equipment. The fibres can be attracted to electronic components on other vehicles nearby and cause short circuits.
The most likely effect from failing to use an extraction system when working with composites like carbon fibre is black lung disease. Inhaling carbon black particles can irritate the lungs and cause coughing.

6. Environmental damage

All products we use in our industry cause an adverse effect on our environment and its everybody’s responsibility to protect our environment no matter how small you think the effects may be. By using filtered extraction systems, we take the pollution that is expelled and clean the air being released. This makes our workplace a far cleaner healthier environment to work in. A clean healthy work environment in turn leads to better staff moral and better cycle times increasing production and profits.

7. Spray painting health effects from not using extraction

The potential health and safety risks range from short term effects such as irritant contact dermatitis, headaches and nausea to extremely serious conditions such as lung cancer, damage to the reproductive system, kidney or liver, and 'painter's syndrome' (which affects the brain).
Spraying of primers and paints outside of an extracted down draft booth will lead to all technicians inhaling these vapours throughout the workshop. This also applies to cleaning products used in the detailing section such as mag wheel and glass cleaners.

8. Body filler dust

Body fillers consist of resins and a filling agent. Various filling agents can be used and when reference is made to polyester or epoxy fillers, it’s the resin which is being referenced. The term lightweight or heavy fillers refer to the filling agent. Filling agents such as Styrene and Q-cell are found in body filler and can be highly toxic, especially if an individual is exposed to it at high concentrations. Short-term exposure can cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation, as well as gastrointestinal effects.

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