TECH TIPS: 3 simple tools to mitigate welding fumes

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Not all spaces provide enough air movement to keep you safe. Here is how to drastically minimize welding fumes and capture polluted air. PHOTO courtesy ESAB.

This TECH TIPS is provided by the experts at ESAB University

No one wants to breathe in dirty air, especially when you’re fabricating metal. However, not all spaces provide enough air movement to keep you safe. For instance, areas that are smaller than 10,000 cu. ft. for each welder require extra help when it comes to fume mitigation. 

Even if your workspace is larger than that, if there are screens and partitions blocking airflow, consider extra ventilation. There are also additional hazards to keep in mind if you’re exposed to hexavalent chromium from welding stainless steel, zinc from welding galvanized material, and manganese found in many alloys. 

Here are three tools that when combined can drastically minimize fumes and capture polluted air – so you can breathe easier. 

#1: PAPR Welding Helmet

Choose a helmet with a Powered Air Purifying Respirator built in. Unlike a standard respirator, which relies on negative pressure to filter out contaminants, an air-fed respirator uses positive pressure to push the dangerous fumes away. For instance, with ESAB’s Savage A40 PAPR helmet, you’ll get a portable filtration system that removes 99.9% of fine particles in the air and offers five times the protection of a disposable or reusable respirator mask. 

#2: Smoke Extraction Unit 

Another key mitigation tool is a smoke extraction unit that can be connected to a welding torch or to an extraction nozzle to extract the fume directly at source. The polluted air is filtered and captured in a hygienically packed filter.

#3: Fume Extraction Guns 

One more tool to integrate into your mitigation strategy is a fume extraction gun. It combines a MIG gun with a high static pressure suction device (think industrial-strength shop vac) that has a W class High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. Here’s how it works. 

•    At the front, an outer tube encircles the gun’s regular conductor tube, and an adjustable shroud is positioned over the standard gas nozzle (Fig. 2). 
•    You can control the volume of extraction by moving the shroud position relative to the end of the nozzle. A vacuum vent located at the front of the handle allows you to then adjust fume extraction rates.
•    After being pulled through the gun, fumes and particulates move through a plastic tube (similar to a vacuum cleaner hose) toward the power pin end of the gun. 
•    About a foot from the feeder, the fume hose connects to the suction device via a T-piece, which removes particulates before they can reach the gun connection point. This minimizes fouling of the connection and wire feed mechanism. 

 To accommodate the vacuum system, fume extraction guns are larger than standard MIG guns. When used properly, though, they can extract around 90% of fumes at the source – so are well worth it when you need more ventilation.

When evaluating guns, consider weight, grip comfort and other features, like a steel knuckle joint between the gun and the cable. Similar to the ball joint on some models of standard guns, the knuckle will improve flexibility and motion, especially when welding around corners. 

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