Welding has soared in popularity over the years. From commercial and industrial use to do-it-yourself projects at home, many people are using this method of melting metal to form a strong joint for all kinds of projects. However, the popularity brings concerns about the safety of the materials, equipment and gasses used in welding. One particular area of concern is the hazards associated with argon welding gas. Argon gas is a shielding gas that you can use when welding aluminum, magnesium or titanium. It provides stable arc features, which helps to eliminate spatter, as well as consistent weld quality and appearance. You can also add argon to CO2 shielding gas for welding materials such as carbon steel.
Precautions for Welding With Argon Gas
Argon is an inert gas that is colorless, odorless and non-flammable. While that description may make argon gas sound harmless, there are definitely some dangers that go along with using argon welding gas. That's why taking the necessary precautions is important.
First, do not weld in confined spaces without ventilation. When welding indoors, make sure there is a working general ventilation system that will help reduce fumes and gas levels in the work area. You should also use respiratory protection.
If you are outdoors, you should position yourself, so you're not breathing in the welding fumes or gases. Even when you're outdoors, you need to worry about ventilation. If possible, stay upwind when welding. This will help reduce the amount of gas exposure.
When storing argon gas, always use storage containers, piping, valves and fittings designed for storage and distribution of the gas. Store in an area that is cool, dry, well-ventilated, fireproof and away from flammable materials. It's also important to keep it away from heat and ignition sources as well as out of direct sunlight.
Hazards of Welding with Argon Gas
Even though argon gas is non-toxic, there are hazards associated with using it. The primary health hazard is asphyxiation or suffocation by displacement of oxygen.
Some of the other common hazards of welding with argon gas include:
- A stinging sensation when argon affects your eyes.
- Inhaling the gas may cause dizziness, vomiting, excitation, rapid breathing, excess salivation, headaches, drowsiness, stinging of the nose and throat and may result in unconsciousness.
- Chronic exposure can result in damage to the retinal ganglion cells (primary cell type closest to the retina that is responsible for carrying vital information from the eye to the brain) and central nervous system due to the presence of carbon monoxide.
- Prolonged exposure to welding fumes may cause lung damage and various types of cancer, including lung, larynx and urinary tract.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should leave the area immediately and find fresh air. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, you may need to seek medical attention.