Physicochemical Characterization of Aerosol Generated in the Gas Tungsten Arc Welding of Stainless Steel

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Abstract

Objectives:

Exposure to stainless steel (SS) welding aerosol that contain toxic heavy metals, chromium (Cr), manganese (Mn), and nickel (Ni), has been associated with numerous adverse health effects. The gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) is commonly applied to SS and produces high number concentration of substantially smaller particles compared with the other welding techniques, although the mass emission rate is low. Here, a field study in a workshop with the GTAW as principal welding technique was conducted to determine the physicochemical properties of the airborne particles and to improve the understanding of the hazard the SS welding aerosols pose to welders.

Methods:

Particle number concentration and number size distribution were measured near the breathing zone (50cm from the arc) and in the middle of the workshop with condensation particle counters and electrical mobility particle sizers, respectively. Particle morphology and chemical composition were studied using scanning and transmission electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy.

Results:

In the middle of the workshop, the number size distribution was unimodal with the geometric mean diameter (GMD) of 46nm. Near the breathing zone the number size distribution was multimodal, and the GMDs of the modes were in the range of 10–30nm. Two different agglomerate types existed near the breathing zone. The first type consisted of iron oxide primary particles with size up to 40nm and variable amounts of Cr, Mn, and Ni replacing iron in the structure. The second type consisted of very small primary particles and contained increased proportion of Ni compared to the proportion of (Cr + Mn) than the first agglomerate type.

Conclusions:

The alterations in the distribution of Ni between different welding aerosol particles have not been reported previously.

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