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Nano- and Submicron Particles Emission during Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) of Steel: Differences between Automatic and Manual Process

Category: Aerosol Physics and Instrumentation

Volume: 18 | Issue: 3 | Pages: 579-589
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2017.07.0226

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Elena Baracchini1, Carlotta Bianco1, Matteo Crosera1, Francesca Larese Filon2, Elena Belluso3,4,5, Silvana Capella3,4, Giovanni Maina6, Gianpiero Adami 1

  • 1 Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche e Farmaceutiche, Università di Trieste, 34127 Trieste, Italy
  • 2 Unità Clinica Operativa di Medicina del Lavoro, Dipartimento Universitario Clinico di Scienze Mediche Chirurgiche e della Salute, Università di Trieste, 34129 Trieste, Italy
  • 3 Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università di Torino, 10125 Torino, Italy
  • 4 Centro Interdipartimentale per lo Studio degli Amianti e di altri Particolati Nocivi “G. Scansetti”, 10125 Torino, Italy
  • 5 Istituto di Geoscienze e Georisorse, CNR, 10125 Torino, Italy
  • 6 Dipartimento di Scienze Cliniche e Biologiche, Università di Torino, 10126 Torino, Italy


A number of health problems are attributed to welding fumes exposure.
GTAW process generates smaller particles than other kinds of welding processes.
TEM-EDS provides morphochemical characterizations of welding fumes particles.
A-GTAW fumes particles were mostly nanosized and formed agglomerates chainlike.


Welding operations originate micro and nanoparticles represented by metal oxides, unoxidized metals and compounds, such as fluorides and chlorides. Welding fumes exposure is associated to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, asthma and early Parkinson disease. Ultrafine (nanosized) particles in welding fumes are considered a risk factor in terms of occupational exposure: when inhaled, they are efficiently deposited in all regions of the respiratory tract and can translocate to other target organs as brain and systemic circulation. The study of nanoparticles emissions during welding can help to understand effects related also to new-engineered nanoparticles exposure.
In our study two real sources of Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) fume particles, collected in an automotive plant, were characterized by means of a transmission electron microscope coupled with an energy-dispersive X-ray analytical system (TEM-EDS) and compared to a zone of the plant far from the two sources used as a reference background. The particles sampled during the automatic GTAW process were mainly constituted by iron/manganese oxide with a mean diameter of 47 nm, followed by smaller iron oxide nanoparticles (21 nm). During the manual welding process mostly aggregates with larger diameters that showed an X-ray spectrum characteristic of different kinds of silicates were found. Iron and cobalt oxides nanoparticles were present only inside bigger aggregates mainly composed of aluminum and titanium oxides.
This study confirms that welders are exposed to nano- and submicron particles and that iron/manganese oxide nanoparticles are the most representative in automatic process, despite the low concentration of manganese in welding wires (1–2%). Our results help to understand hazard related to welding fumes exposure and possible effects of nanoparticles on lung, brain and systemic circulation.


Welding fumes GTAW Nanoparticles TEM-EDS Occupational exposure

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