Archives of toxicology
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Welders are daily exposed to various levels of welding fumes containing several metals. This exposure can lead to an increased risk for different health effects which serves as a driving force to develop new methods that generate less toxic fumes. The aim of this study was to explore the role of released metals for welding particle-induced toxicity and to test the hypothesis that a reduction of Cr(VI) in welding fumes results in less toxicity by comparing the welding fume particles of optimized Cr(VI)-reduced flux-cored wires (FCWs) to standard FCWs. The welding particles were thoroughly characterized, and toxicity (cell viability, DNA damage and inflammation) was assessed following exposure to welding particles as well as their released metal fraction using cultured human bronchial epithelial cells (HBEC-3kt, 5-100 µg/mL) and human monocyte-derived macrophages (THP-1, 10-50 µg/mL). The results showed that all Cr was released as Cr(VI) for welding particles generated using standard FCWs whereas only minor levels (< 3% of total Cr) were released from the newly developed FCWs. Furthermore, the new FCWs were considerably less cytotoxic and did not cause any DNA damage in the doses tested. For the standard FCWs, the Cr(VI) released in cell media seemed to explain a large part of the cytotoxicity and DNA damage. In contrast, all particles caused rather similar inflammatory effects suggesting different underlying mechanisms. Taken together, this study suggests a potential benefit of substituting standard FCWs with Cr(VI)-reduced wires to achieve less toxic welding fumes and thus reduced risks for welders.