April 8, 2024

Toxic Emissions from Brazing & Soldering

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Toxic Emissions from Brazing & Soldering

Industrial Soldering and Brazing

The art of using heat to fuse metal parts to produce or repair objects is centuries old. Fine jewelry, cell phones, car engines, plumbing systems, satellite components, and specialized tools are just some of the countless everyday objects created or repaired by soldering or brazing.

For every one of these items in existence, a person produced it or oversaw its production. A lot of manufactured objects equals a lot of manufacturing workers. Unfortunately, soldering and brazing generate air pollution that creates occupational risk for those workers, and without indoor air quality (IAQ) measures, people can get very sick.

While the purpose of both soldering and brazing is to join or strengthen metal pieces via heat, brazing is done at high temperatures exceeding 840ºF while soldering is below 840ºF. Furthermore, while soldering joins metal pieces (like wires in a circuit board), brazing melts a filler metal to strengthen the outer metal base (like creating leak-proof piping).

Many businesses use soldering and brazing to manufacture their goods. Appliance manufacturing, aerospace & auto, power & energy, medical, HVAC, and electronics are just a few examples of industries that rely on soldering and brazing.

Indoor Air Quality Problems

Like many industrial manufacturing processes, soldering and brazing can release gases and particulates that have the potential to threaten the health and well-being of people in the surrounding areas. The types of emissions vary but can include,

  1. Metal Fumes
  2. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  3. Particulate Matter (PM)
  4. Smoke and Dust

When a substance is mass-released, as it is at an industrial plant or manufacturing facility, it enters the atmosphere and puts workers at risk. When exposure is constant, as in an indoor, job-related setting, the body cannot excrete toxins fast enough to eliminate them. This occupational exposure may not always result in illness, but without intervention, it often does.

Health Risks from Brazing & Soldering

In defining the risks associated with indoor air pollution, the EPA breaks down the difference between short-term and chronic exposure:

Some health effects may show up shortly after a single exposure (short-term exposure) or repeated contact with a pollutant. Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure (chronic). (1)

In other words, short-term exposure is not ongoing and is considered an isolated event. Long-term (chronic) exposure, on the other hand, is when someone has repeated contact, hour after hour, day after day.

Regardless of the duration a worker is exposed, contact can result in respiratory complications such as coughing, wheezing, eye and nasal irritation, headache, and shortness of breath. Pre-existing conditions such as asthma can be made worse even with short-term exposure.

Occupational exposure alone isn’t necessarily enough to cause serious problems. The volume of contamination, the duration of exposure, as well as an individual’s characteristics such as age, gender, health, and lifestyle, are all factors that affect the degree to which a person is at risk.

But for people who work with soldering and brazing emissions day in and day out, the risks are far more severe. Metal fumes can cause pulmonary and respiratory disease, reproductive issues such as miscarriages and birth defects, neurological problems such as memory loss and brain fog, and even cancer.

How to Protect You and Your Workers

To minimize the risk of becoming ill from solder and brazing pollution, proper safety measures should include:

  1. Proper industrial hygiene to minimize particulate accumulation
  2. The use of personal protective equipment
  3. Adequate workspace ventilation
  4. The use of methods and materials that produce fewer emissions, when possible
  5. Air cleaning equipment such to source capture for fumes and dusts

At AIRSInc, our Extract-All® line of air cleaning products eliminates pollution at the source. While we carry a full line of ambient and central systems, our bench-top and mobile fume extractors are the products we recommend because they are specifically designed for applications such as soldering and brazing. To ensure that your workplace has an IAQ that is healthy for all employees, contact an AIRSInc specialist today for a free indoor air quality assessment.

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