Exposure of welders and other metal workers to ELF magnetic fields

Bioelectromagnetics. 1997;18(7):470-7. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1521-186x(1997)18:7<470::aid-bem2>3.0.co;2-#.


This study assessed exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields of welders and other metal workers and compared exposure from different welding processes. Exposure to ELF magnetic fields was measured for 50 workers selected from a nationwide cohort of metal workers and 15 nonrandomly selected full-time welders in a shipyard. The measurements were carried out with personal exposure meters during 3 days of work for the metal workers and I day of work for the shipyard welders. To record a large dynamic range of ELF magnetic field values, the measurements were carried out with "high/low" pairs of personal exposure meters. Additional measurements of static magnetic fields at fixed positions close to welding installations were done with a Hall-effect fluxmeter. The total time of measurement was 1273 hours. The metal workers reported welding activity for 5.8% of the time, and the median of the work-period mean exposure to ELF magnetic fields was 0.18 microT. DC metal inert or active gas welding (MIG/MAG) was used 80% of the time for welding, and AC manual metal arc welding (MMA) was used 10% of the time. The shipyard welders reported welding activity for 56% of the time, and the median and maximum of the workday mean exposure to ELF magnetic fields was 4.70 and 27.5 microT, respectively. For full-shift welders the average workday mean was 21.2 microT for MMA welders and 2.3 microT for MIG/MAG welders. The average exposure during the effective time of welding was estimated to be 65 microT for the MMA welding process and 7 microT for the MIG/MAG welding process. The time of exposure above 1 microT was found to be a useful measure of the effective time of welding. Large differences in exposure to ELF magnetic fields were found between different groups of welders, depending on the welding process and effective time of welding. MMA (AC) welding caused roughly 10 times higher exposure to ELF magnetic fields compared with MIG/MAG (DC) welding. The measurements of static fields suggest that the combined exposure to static and ELF fields of MIG/MAG (DC) welders and the exposure to ELF fields of MMA (AC) welders are roughly of the same level.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Metallurgy*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Time Factors
  • Welding*