Exposure to manganese – and a few good reasons to protect yourself
Manganese is a naturally occurring element. Normally, it is part of the human diet and good for you when consumed in moderation.
However, manganese becomes airborne during welding and other industrial processes and inhaling manganese causes serious health problems.
Manganese (Mn) is added to several different metals to improve their strength. Welding with electrodes and especially welding with welding wire is known to release manganese into the air.
…and what happens then
Inhaling manganese affects the lungs, the nervous system and the reproductive system. Lung irritations and inflammations may occur. Men have been shown to suffer from impotence and a lowered libido.
When inhaled, manganese reaches the brain and can cause manganism. Manganism is a neurological syndrome that usually starts with milder symptoms and progresses over time.
Early symptons of manganism vary but some are:
- overall feelings of weakness and irritability,
- heaviness and stiffness of the legs,
- anorexia and
Other symptoms include:
- difficulties in walking,
- tremors and
- sometimes psychological disturbances.
Some of the symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s disease and therefore manganism is often called a Parkinson-like disease.
Symptoms of manganese poisoning usually do not become visible before several years of exposure. But then again, some people show symptoms after only a couple of months of exposure.
How to protect yourself
An effective air purification system together with proper protective gear minimizes the possibility to inhale airborne manganese in the workplace.
They are needed to avoid manganism and other health problems.
Also regular medical check-ups are important in catching the disease as early as possible.
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Detailed information on manganese risks is available in WHO’s Concise International Chemical Assessment Document.