Number Size Distribution of Fine and Ultrafine Fume Particles From Various Welding Processes

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Studies in the field of environmental epidemiology indicate that for the adverse effect of inhaled particles not only particle mass is crucial but also particle size is. Ultrafine particles with diameters below 100nm are of special interest since these particles have high surface area to mass ratio and have properties which differ from those of larger particles. In this paper, particle size distributions of various welding and joining techniques were measured close to the welding process using a fast mobility particle sizer (FMPS). It turned out that welding processes with high mass emission rates (manual metal arc welding, metal active gas welding, metal inert gas welding, metal inert gas soldering, and laser welding) show mainly agglomerated particles with diameters above 100nm and only few particles in the size range below 50nm (10 to 15%). Welding processes with low mass emission rates (tungsten inert gas welding and resistance spot welding) emit predominantly ultrafine particles with diameters well below 100nm. This finding can be explained by considerably faster agglomeration processes in welding processes with high mass emission rates. Although mass emission is low for tungsten inert gas welding and resistance spot welding, due to the low particle size of the fume, these processes cannot be labeled as toxicologically irrelevant and should be further investigated.

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