Welding can expose workers to toxic fumes and particulate matter.

Welding can expose workers to toxic fumes and particulate matter.

An ongoing study focusing on female workers’ exposure to welding fumes and metal dust in metalworking and electrical trades has published some preliminary findings.

The researchers report that the study is now recruiting women from all provinces and territories across Canada, who can complete the questionnaires either in French or English by telephone.

Originally, the study focused on female workers in the province of Alberta. Participants can also complete the questionnaires online.

Up until this point, 531 women have completed the baseline questionnaire and 415 women have completed the first of the questionnaire about exposures at work.

The earliest participants are now nearing their 30 month follow-up questionnaire online or by telephone, having been enrolled for over two years.

Preliminary results focus on metal levels

At the time of their first exposure questionnaire early participants were asked to send in a urine sample so that we could examine the relationship between work and the level of metals inside the body.

There were 107 women who were working in their trade and provided a urine sample at the time of their first exposure questionnaire. This group included 56 welders and 51 electricians. Each urine sample was analyzed for a series of metals possibly related to work in the trades.

The result suggested that welders had higher levels of metals than the electricians, but the differences were small in most cases.

The researchers next looked at whether the metal levels differed depending on the tasks that were carried out on the last day at work before giving the sample.

Among electricians there were no differences in the metal levels, regardless of the tasks on that day. However, among welders, there were differences: those who reported stick welding had higher metal levels than women who did not do stick welding.

In addition, welders who reported TIG welding had lower metal levels than those who did not do TIG welding. We are continuing to analyze these metal levels and will have more results to share in future updates.

For those interested in participating can join the WHAT-ME study at http://www.whatme.ualberta.ca or write to whatme@ualberta.ca or call 1-866-492-6093.

Source: University of Alberta

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