A new, rare but serious workplace disease has been identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): welder’s anthrax.
Researchers have found the disease among metalworkers, according to a new report, which is the first to describe the newly identified occupational disease.
Welder’s anthrax is a type of pneumonia found in metalworkers that’s caused by bacteria that produces anthrax toxin.
Metalworkers can contract the disease from exposure to metal fumes and mineral dusts.
Seven cases of this disease have been reported to the CDC from 1994 to 2020. Six of those cases were in patients whose job title was welder and the job title of the seventh was metalworker.
In the report, researchers provide additional information on the cases, describe how the disease could occur and outline preventative methods to use to mitigate exposure.
The CDC researchers say safety professionals should use the hierarchy of controls to assess and prevent exposure to the toxic fumes and particulates that cause welder’s anthrax.
Some of the methods mentioned include:
- use of a less toxic welding type and ensuring welding surfaces are free of any coatings, dirt and dust that may lead to toxic exposures
- making good use of general and local exhaust ventilation and not assuming there is adequate ventilation outdoors or in open areas, and
- maintaining a clean and dirt-free worksite by routinely cleaning with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter or through wet cleaning methods.
The full report can be found here.