If you have the skills and experience necessary to be a professional welder, you have likely chosen a good career path. After all, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employers will need a 26% increase in the number of welders over the next decade.
While welding may be a lucrative and growing career, it can also be hazardous to your health. That is, welders are prone to burns, eye injuries and electrical shock at work. If you work as a welder, you may also have an increased risk of developing early-onset Parkinson’s disease.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects motor control. While Parkinson’s is often a problem for older individuals, it may appear at any age. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should ask a doctor to rule out Parkinson’s disease:
- Trembling in the hands, arms, legs or face
- Stiffness in the muscles throughout your body
- Slowness in your bodily movements
- Difficulties with walking, running, talking or sleeping
- Loss of smell or taste
Why are welders at risk?
Doctors are not entirely sure what causes Parkinson’s disease to develop. Nevertheless, dozens of studies have found a causal link between manganese and Parkinson’s.
Manganese, of course, is present in many types of steel. When you weld, the metallic element may convert to gas that you can easily breathe into your lungs. After even minimal exposure, you may develop Parkinson’s.
How can you protect yourself?
Even though Parkinson’s is often manageable, it is not curable. To reduce your risk of developing welding-related Parkinson’s, you should wear an appropriate respirator every time you perform your job duties.
Even if you take steps to protect yourself at work, you may eventually develop early-onset Parkinson’s from working with or near welding materials. Fortunately, if you acquire the disorder at work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits may help you better cope with your diagnosis.