Effect of stainless steel manual metal arc welding fume on free radical production, DNA damage, and apoptosis induction

Mol Cell Biochem. 2005 Nov;279(1-2):17-23. doi: 10.1007/s11010-005-8211-6.


Questions exist concerning the potential carcinogenic effects after welding fume exposure. Welding processes that use stainless steel (SS) materials can produce fumes that may contain metals (e.g., Cr, Ni) known to be carcinogenic to humans. The objective was to determine the effect of in vitro and in vivo welding fume treatment on free radical generation, DNA damage, cytotoxicity and apoptosis induction, all factors possibly involved with the pathogenesis of lung cancer. SS welding fume was collected during manual metal arc welding (MMA). Elemental analysis indicated that the MMA-SS sample was highly soluble in water, and a majority (87%) of the soluble metal was Cr. Using electron spin resonance (ESR), the SS welding fume had the ability to produce the biologically reactive hydroxyl radical (*OH), likely as a result of the reduction of Cr(VI) to Cr(V). In vitro treatment with the MMA-SS sample caused a concentration-dependent increase in DNA damage and lung macrophage death. In addition, a time-dependent increase in the number of apoptotic cells in lung tissue was observed after in vivo treatment with the welding fume. In summary, a soluble MMA-SS welding fume was found to generate reactive oxygen species and cause DNA damage, lung macrophage cytotoxicity and in vivo lung cell apoptosis. These responses have been shown to be involved in various toxicological and carcinogenic processes. The effects observed appear to be related to the soluble component of the MMA-SS sample that is predominately Cr. A more comprehensive in vivo animal study is ongoing in the laboratory that is continuing these experiments to try to elucidate the potential mechanisms that may be involved with welding fume-induced lung disease.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromium / analysis
  • Chromium / chemistry
  • DNA Damage*
  • Free Radicals / chemistry*
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / pathology
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / drug effects*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Smoke*
  • Solubility
  • Stainless Steel* / chemistry
  • Time Factors
  • Welding*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Free Radicals
  • Smoke
  • Chromium
  • Stainless Steel
  • chromium hexavalent ion