Quantitative Assessment of Metals and Particulates Exposure in Women and Men in the Welding Trades

This project extends work on the Women’s Health in Apprenticeship Trades – Metalworkers and Electricians (What-me) project.

What-me is a prospective cohort of women welders from across Canada set up in 2010 by a research team from the University of Alberta.

The objective of the project was to develop and validate a welding occupational exposure matrix to estimate exposure to particulates and metals through fumes or dust that were directly relevant to the exposures of the welders in the What-me and What-men studies. The scenarios included welding process, base metal, and consumable.

It was anticipated that ambient air monitoring of welding activities, classified by type, base metal, and consumables, would provide objective validation of the exposure estimates, resulting in a publishable report on the development and validation of the exposure algorithms.

The algorithms will be used in future studies to provide quantitative estimates of the effects of welding exposure on pregnancy outcomes and health effects (dermatitis, asthma) that may be related to welding fumes being inhaled by both women and men in the welding trades.

This report describes the methods and results of three stages in the estimates of exposure:

  • literature search, extraction, and statistical modelling of published data from 179 articles producing a total of 2,965 summary statistics;
  • collection and analysis of exposure data from 60 experimental welding sessions carried out in the Canadian Centre for Welding and Joining at the University of Alberta; and
  • validation and calibration of statistical models using data from both sources.

The resulting statistical models, presented for total particulates, provide a tool for quantification of exposures within the What-me project. They will also be of use to other researchers and practitioners who have access to process description without the capacity for direct measurement of airborne exposures.