A study underway at the University of Alberta (Canada) may offer more detail on health effects that exposure to welding fumes and metal dust have on women in metalworking and electrical trades, according to a report from
The research project, called "Women's Health in Alberta Trades – Metalworking and Electricians" (WHAT-ME), is a collaboration among researchers from the UoA, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training. It targets women in the province who have taken part in apprenticeship training in one of the relevant trades at any time during the last five years. (WCxKit)
Some 180 women, of which approximately10 are pregnant, have been recruited for the study. Apart from reproductive health, the study will also analyze health issues surrounding respiratory health, skin problems, nickel sensitization and musculoskeletal problems.
The initial motivation came from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), which has raised concerns about possible health risks to pregnant welders who are exposed to welding fumes.
David Hisey, chair of the safety committee on welding, cutting and allied processes for the CSA, says that there is a need for an "increased level of safety" considering more female welders are entering the workforce in Western Canada. "We want to make sure we know the hazards that we are putting our kids into and if there's more protection that needs to be provided for all workers, then we need to be looking at that," he commented.
A 2008 study from Finland discovered that maternal exposure to welding fumes or metal dusts during pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm delivery and reduce intrauterine growth.
There was also some suggestive, but inconsistent, evidence that the risk of preterm delivery and reduced fetal growth is related to paternal exposure to welding fumes, the paper notes. Results were gleaned from observations of 1,670 women who worked during pregnancy, of which 68 (four per cent) were exposed to either welding fumes or metal dusts or fumes. (WCxKit)
The paper discovered that nitrogen oxide, a compound present in welding fumes and/or metal dusts, was identified as a compound responsible for low birth weight and spontaneous abortion among dental assistants. "Prenatal exposure to [a] complex mixture of combustion products, emissions from unvented or poorly vented stoves and ambient air pollution may also increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes," the paper notes.
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