Welding rods are pieces of metal which are heated to high temperatures and used as a filler to fuse other metals together. When a welding rod is heated, it releases dust and fumes containing a number of toxic chemicals. Exposure to these chemicals may cause serious health problems and long-term illnesses in humans. Those who have been injured by welding rod use should obtain medical treatment and contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss their legal right to compensation.
The health risks involved in welding may vary depending on the specific metals used, as well as the length and concentration of exposure.
The most common welding rod-related health problems are caused by exposure to manganese. Manganese is a common element of steel and most welding rods. When significant amounts of manganese are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, individuals may develop Manganism (also known as "welder's disease"), Manganese Poisoning, and Manganese-Induced Parkinsonism. These disorders target the central nervous system and affect the brain's ability to control body movement. Symptoms of manganese-related disorders include:
- Difficulty walking and moving;
- Poor balance and coordination;
- Slurred speech;
- Decreased hand agility; and
- Dementia and depression.
Manganese-related disorders are progressive and typically become increasingly severe over time. While there is no cure for these disorders, they may be treated with medication and physical therapy.
Other Health Risks
In addition to manganese, welding rods often release chemicals such as nickel, chromium, iron, cadmium and aluminum. These chemicals are known to cause skin ulcers, eye burns, asthma and chronic bronchitis in humans, as well as various cancers such as leukemia and cancer of the stomach, brain and pancreas.
Legal claims for welding rod injuries may be brought by the welder or the welder's family if the welder has passed away. The party bringing the suit (the "plaintiff") may pursue recovery under several legal theories. First, the welder's employer may be sued for personal injuries under state worker's compensation laws. Personal injury claims typically require the plaintiff to prove that the injury was caused by the employer's negligence.
Second, a plaintiff may bring a products liability claim against the companies that manufactured and distributed the welding rod. These companies will be held liable if the plaintiff proves the following: (1) the welding rod was defective, such that it was unsafe to use under the circumstances; and (2) the fumes released from the welding rod caused the injury or injuries suffered by the welder.
A welding rod may be defective if it is manufactured and distributed with inadequate warnings. For example, in 2005, an Illinois appellate court upheld a damage award of $1 million against several welding rod manufacturers who failed to place warnings in a location that consumers were likely to see.
Successful plaintiffs may recover a number of damages, including the costs of medical care, lost wages, lost earning capacity, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Spouses of those seriously injured or impaired by a welding rod may recover for loss of consortium.