On the bio-accessibility of 14 elements in welding fumes†
The bio-accessibility of 14 elements in welding fume particulate matter was investigated in 325 personal air samples collected during welding in two shipyards and one factory producing heavy machinery. The apparent solubility in a synthetic lung lining fluid (Hatch's solution) was used as proxy for the bio-accessibility. The Hatch solubility of the different elements was highly variable with a median < 1% for Al, Fe, Pb, Ti, between 4 and 6% for Co, Cr, Ni, V, W, between 13 and 27% for Cd, Cu, Mn, Zn, and 41% for Mo. For many elements, the solubility varied over a wide range of several tens of percent. The welding techniques used influenced the solubility of Co, Cr, Cu, Mn and V significantly. The plants investigated (i.e., the welded materials and used electrodes) had a significant influence on the solubility of Co, Cr, Cu, Mn, Mo, V and W. According to principal component analysis (PCA), the variation in solubility can be described by four components, which explain 69% of the variance. The first principal component mostly comprises elements that can predominantly occur as divalent cations, the second principal component elements often forming oxyanions. The principal components are independent of the absolute value of the Hatch solubility. The results of PCA indicate that the co-variation of Hatch solubility is mainly controlled by the most soluble compounds in contrast to the absolute value of apparent solubility, which is strongly influenced by the distribution of the elements between compounds with different equilibrium solubilities. The observed large variability and the significant differences between welding techniques and plants clearly show that the bio-accessibility cannot be obtained from the literature but has to be studied experimentally at each location of interest.