Characterization of Exposures to Airborne Nanoscale Particles during Friction Stir Welding of Aluminum

Publication Information:

Pfefferkorn, F.E., D. Bello, J.-Y. Park, M. Powell, J. McCarthy, K.L. Bunker, G. Gruetzmacher, G. Haddad, A. Fehrenbacher, Y. Jeon, M. D. Hoover, “Characterization of Exposures to Airborne Nanoscale Particles during Friction Stir Welding of Aluminum”, The Annals of Occupational Hygiene, Vol. 54(5), pp. 486-503, 2010. DOI: 10.1093/annhyg/meq037

Year: 2010

Friction stir welding (FSW) is considered one of the most significant developments in joining technology over the last half century. Its industrial applications are growing steadily and so are the number of workers using this technology. To date, there are no reports on airborne exposures during FSW. The objective of this study was to investigate possible emissions of nanoscale (<100 nm) and fine (<1 microm) aerosols during FSW of two aluminum alloys in a laboratory setting and characterize their physicochemical composition. Several instruments measured size distributions (5 nm to 20 microm) with 1-s resolution, lung deposited surface areas, and PM(2.5) concentrations at the source and at the breathing zone (BZ). A wide range aerosol sampling system positioned at the BZ collected integrated samples in 12 stages (2 nm to 20 microm) that were analyzed for several metals using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Airborne aerosol was directly collected onto several transmission electron microscope grids and the morphology and chemical composition of collected particles were characterized extensively. FSW generates high concentrations of ultrafine and submicrometer particles. The size distribution was bimodal, with maxima at approximately 30 and approximately 550 nm. The mean total particle number concentration at the 30 nm peak was relatively stable at approximately 4.0 x 10(5) particles cm(-3), whereas the arithmetic mean counts at the 550 nm peak varied between 1500 and 7200 particles cm(-3), depending on the test conditions. The BZ concentrations were lower than the source concentrations by 10-100 times at their respective peak maxima and showed higher variability. The daylong average metal-specific concentrations were 2.0 (Zn), 1.4 (Al), and 0.24 (Fe) microg m(-3); the estimated average peak concentrations were an order of magnitude higher. Potential for significant exposures to fine and ultrafine aerosols, particularly of Al, Fe, and Zn, during FSW may exist, especially in larger scale industrial operations.


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