The HSE recently conducted a study on the effects of welding fumes, including mild steel on operator health. They found that these fumes can not only cause occupational illnesses such as asthma or metal fume fever, but can also cause more serious problems like lung and kidney cancer.
Find out more information of their results here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/mild-steel-welding-fume.htm
As a result of findings in the study the HSE now states that there is no safe work exposure limit (WEL) for welding fumes. This means that even for a short welding operation or when welding outside, there must be suitable control measure put in place. This could be in the form of PPE which can be cumbersome and difficult to work with, it also doesn’t protect others working in the surrounding areas. Removing the hazard at source is the best way to control fume and prevent migration into other work areas.
The best control measures for capturing harmful welding fumes is a suitable LEV system of which there are a number of options to suit the different types of welding operations. Typically, there is a maneuverable hood which allows the operator to best locate the capture zone, a fan to remove the toxic fumes, and in some cases a filter to remove harmful particles.