Welder’s anthrax is a relatively new occupational hazard identified by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It’s a special case of pneumonia mainly affecting metal workers, including welders. When metals are burned or broken down into fumes, they can release hazardous particulate matter into the air and bacteria within the B. cereus group, the same one that produces the anthrax toxin. This is how the disease got its name. Medical professionals are still unsure how metal particles can cause disease, but employers are encouraged to take precautions to limit exposure.
The crew should start by educating workers on the dangers of welder’s anthrax and how it can potentially spread. Initial symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath (dyspnea), and coughing up blood (hemoptysis). Everyone working with or near metal should have access to the proper safety equipment and be fully trained on how to perform the task at hand safely.