BMW April 2022

Here are eight good reasons you should protect staff by having fume extraction. Air fed units will protect the person welding but not other staff in the workshop. 

Explosive mix 

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 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.  

Long term effects 

When welding automotive steels or aluminium the weld zone gives off harmful fumes. These can cause metal welding fever 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. 

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 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 also occur. 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. 

Sense of smell? 

All products used in our industry have a particular smell. Those odours are added to products so you are aware you are inhaling them and are encouraged to use fume extraction or respirators. If you can no longer smell a product you have become desensitised, which means you have no idea it is harming you anymore. 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. 

Composites concerns 

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 ‘coalface’ 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 imbedded 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. 

Failing to use an extraction system when working with composites can cause black lung disease, while inhaling carbon particles can irritate the lungs and cause coughing. 

Environmental damage 

All products we use in our industry cause an adverse effect on our environment. 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.  

Adverse health effects 

The potential health and safety risks 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 even lives, and include ‘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. This also applies to cleaning products used in the detailing section such as mag wheel and glass cleaners. 

Body filler dust 

Body fillers consist of resins and filling agents. Various filling agents can be used and when reference is made to polyester or epoxy fillers, it’s the resin which is being referenced. 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 concentration levels. Short-term exposure can cause eye, skin and respiratory irritation, as well as gastrointestinal effects.