As a leading force in North America, we’ve been at the forefront of delivering welding fume extraction solutions since the 1980s. This blog post will outline the exposure limits in Alberta for several of the most frequently encountered hazardous metals and gases present in welding fume.

Fumes are generated when a metal is heated beyond its boiling point, resulting in vapors that condense into extremely fine particles. These particles range in size from 0.005 to 20 µm, though most are less than 1 µm, and they can deposit throughout the respiratory system.

The composition of fume is determined by a variety of factors, including the material being welded, the electrode, coatings, flux, and shielding gas, among others. Air sampling is typically required to identify the hazardous and regulated substances in your work environment. Nonetheless, acquiring information about the composition of metals, gases, and consumables used in the welding process is a helpful first step.

What are the potential hazardous particulates in welding fume?

This article will cover some dangerous metals and gases commonly found in welding fume:

  • Aluminum
  • Antimony
  • Arsenic
  • Beryllium
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Cobalt
  • Copper
  • Iron oxide
  • Lead
  • Manganese (learn more about manganese in welding fumes)
  • Molybdenum
  • Nickel
  • Silver
  • Tin
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Vanadium
  • Zinc
  • Argon
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Helium
  • Hydrogen Fluoride
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitrogen
  • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • Ozone
  • Phosgene

Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code – Welding Fume

In Alberta, the Occupational Health and Safety Code is a binding mandate for employers. Occupational Exposure Limits are outlined in Schedule 1. Here’s some crucial information.

“An employer must ensure that a worker’s exposure to any substance listed in Schedule 1, Table 2 does not exceed its occupational exposure limits listed in Schedule 1, Table 2.”

“If no occupational exposure limit is established for a harmful substance present at a work site, an employer must ensure that a worker’s exposure to that substance is kept as low as reasonably achievable.”

“If no 15-minute occupational exposure limit or ceiling occupational exposure limit is listed for a substance in Schedule 1, Table 2, the employer must comply with the 8-hour occupational exposure limit, and ensure that a worker’s exposure to that substance does not exceed 3 times the 8-hour occupational exposure limit for more than a total of 30 minutes during a continuous 24-hour period, and 5 times the 8-hour occupational exposure limit, or the concentration that is immediately dangerous to life and health, whichever is lower.”



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Alberta – Occupational Exposure Limits for Welding Fume, Metals, and Gases

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Code, the following are the applicable Occupational Exposure Limits (OEL) in Alberta for welding fume and some of its constituents.

Abbreviations used in the tables below:

  • ALARA: Exposure must be kept As Low As Reasonably Achievable
  • TWA: The Time-Weighted Average concentration for an 8-hour workday
  • STEL: Short-Term Exposure Limit (maximum time-weighted average concentration for 15 minutes, no more than four times per day, with at least 60 minutes in between)
  • C: Ceiling (concentration never to be exceeded)
  • (r): Respirable dust (smaller than 4 µm)
  • (t): Total dust
Cadmium compounds2µg/m3(r)NoneNone
Chromium metal & (III)0.5mg/m3NoneNone
Chromium (VI)0.01mg/m3NoneNone
Iron Oxide5mg/m3NoneNone
Tin metal & oxide2mg/m3NoneNone
Titanium dioxide10mg/m3NoneNone
Vanadium pentoxide0.05mg/m3NoneNone
Zinc oxide2mg/m310mg/m3None
Carbon Dioxide5,000ppm30,000ppmNone
Carbon Monoxide25ppmNoneNone
Hydrogen Fluoride0.5ppmNone2ppm
Nitric Oxide25ppmNoneNone
Nitrogen Dioxide3ppm5ppmNone
* Simple asphyxiant: a concentration limit is not specified because the available oxygen is the limiting factor.

Per the Code, if neither a 15-minute occupational exposure limit nor a ceiling occupational exposure limit is provided, the employer must ensure that a worker’s exposure does not exceed three times the 8-hour occupational exposure limit for more than a total of 30 minutes during any 24-hour period, and five times the 8-hour occupational exposure limit.

ACGIH – Threshold Limit Values for Welding Fume, Metals, and Gases

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) is an important organization that researches hazardous substances and suggests exposure limits. Their recommended Threshold Limit Values (TLV) heavily influence most health and safety organizations in North America, thus understanding them is of immense value.

Threshold Limit Values are copyrighted by the ACGIH and hence cannot be replicated on other websites. However, links to relevant pages on their website are provided below.

ACGIH has not issued a specific recommendation regarding welding fumes. Therefore, they fall under the category of Particulates Not Otherwise Regulated. In this case, the ACGIH recommendation is a TLV-TWAEV of 3mg/m3 for respirable particles and 10mg/m3 for inhalable particles.

* A concentration limit is not included because available oxygen is the limiting factor.

Health Risks Associated with Inhalation of Welding Fumes

According to OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the CNESST (Quebec), inhaling welding fumes may lead to the following health impacts:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Breathing difficulties that could lead to suffocation or asphyxiation
  • Metal fume fever
  • Lung damage and various types of cancer
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Kidney damage
  • Nervous system damage
  • Manganism
  • Chest pain
  • Asthma
  • Bleedings
  • Dermatitis or eczema
  • Kidney disease
  • Bone and joint disorders
  • Siderosis (iron oxide in lung tissue after inhalation)
  • Stannosis (tin oxide in lung tissue after inhalation)
  • Anthracosis (poisoning after inhalation of carbon dust)
  • Berylliosis (poisoning after inhalation of beryllium dust)
  • Accumulation of fluid in the lungs

These constitute compelling reasons to safeguard welders, comply with standards, and remove pollutants as effectively as possible. Welding fume extractors are the optimal way to achieve this.

To explore welding fume regulations in other Canadian provinces or territories, you’re welcome to click on one of the links below, which will direct you to our corresponding article on the topic:

Any Questions?

Feel free to contact us. We will help you protect your workers and comply with welding fumes standards anywhere in the US and Canada.