In April 2017, a second phase of the BOHS’s Breath Freely incentive focusing on the manufacturing sector was launched with the initial focus on controlling exposure to welding fumes. This followed the successful launch of the Breathe Freely campaign in 2015, aimed at preventing occupational lung disease in the construction industry. The most recent report on the burden of occupational cancer in Great Britain estimates that approximately 75,000 workers are currently exposed to welding fumes. Additionally, the HSE in the UK has identified welding as causing around 152 deaths from occupational cancer and causing up to 50 welders to be hospitalized with pneumonia annually. Welding fumes generally contain particles from the electrode and the material being welded and acute exposure to these fumes can result in adverse health effects including eye, nose and throat irritation. Chronic exposure may cause various types of cancer, including lung, larynx and urinary tract. Additionally, exposure to specific welding fumes may cause metal fume fever, stomach ulcers and nervous system damage
As welding remains an essential skill in many modern occupational environments such as the renewable energies and waste treatment as well as more traditional sectors such as construction of infrastructure, the implementation of campaigns such as Breath Freely are a welcome resource to aid in the reduction and control of welding fumes in the occupational environment.
The campaign makes available free resources, such as fact sheets, case studies and other tools, all specifically tailored to help employers in the manufacturing sector protect their workers’ respiratory health.