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Metal Fume Fever


Hi all,

Jim Richardson just sent me a link to an article about a very recent
death due to metal fume fever from zinc. The victim, Jim Paw-Paw
Wilson, wrote the first paragraph in the knowledge of his impending
death. While fatalities from metal fume fever are rare it is
shocking, and worth mentioning. I’ve had students go to hospital
several times from metal fume fever, once from a patination where
they did not test a fume hood before using it (no it was not working
properly) and from reticulating brass.

Here is the article.

here are previous Orchid discussions on this:
Search for metal fume fever

Here is an article of mine on metals safety at the Ganoksin project:

Charles Lewton-Brain
President, Canadian Crafts Federation



How right you are. At the Bench Jeweler’s conference in Atlanta last
April, Greg Todd from Stuller gave a speach about solder. During
part of it he mentioned that many jewelers had quit using solders
with cadmium. It’s given them a false sense of security. He went on
to point out how dangerous zinc could be when the fumes are inhaled.
His suggestion was to vent all fumes.

James S.Cantrell


Below a quote from a simple search at Medline, look up Occupational
Respiratory Disease. The article states that using a respirator
correctly requires training, cleaning & retraining & is deemed only
a temporary measure. A more permanent fix is having adequate
ventilation (a system) or even separation of the worker from the
fumes. This is just what I read-it is good to know what can harm us
& that there are preventative measures available. So, be aware, do
research, and be safe out there! “What substances in the workplace
can hurt my lungs?” "Many substances found in the workplace can
cause breathing problems or lung damage. Some of them are as follows:

  • Dust from such things as wood, cotton, coal, asbestos, silica and
    talc. Dust from cereal grains, coffee, pesticides, drug or enzyme
    powders, metals and fiberglass can also hurt your lungs.

  • Fumes from metals that are heated and cooled quickly. This process
    results in fine, solid particles being carried in the air. Examples
    of jobs that involve exposure to fumes from metals and other
    substances that are heated and cooled quickly include welding,
    smelting, furnace work, pottery making, plastics manufacture and
    rubber operations.

  • Smoke from burning organic materials. Smoke can contain a variety
    of particles, gases and vapors, depending on what substance is being
    burned. Firefighters are at an increased risk.

  • Gases such as formaldehyde, ammonia, chlorine, sulfur dioxide,
    ozone and nitrogen oxides. These are associated with jobs where
    chemical reactions occur and in jobs with high heat operations, such
    as welding, brazing, smelting, oven drying and furnace work.

  • Vapors, which are a form of gas given off by all liquids. Vapors,
    such as those given off by solvents, usually irritate the nose and
    throat first, before they affect the lungs.

  • Mists or sprays from paints, lacquers (such as varnish), hair
    spray, pesticides, cleaning products, acids, oils and solvents (such
    as turpentine). "

(Medline & Family Doctor)

Eileen Schneegas


I sort of agree but one MUST ALWAYS use discretion and consider the
situation. Commonsense can go so very far but is so lacking these
days. So much is posted, stated and written about safety that is
just head shaking in nature… A respirator will do no good if there
are inhale leeks, makes sense. Standing on the top step of a ladder
is dangerous, duh!! Metal that has just been heated to red hot will
burn you if touched… again duh! An on and on. But then there is
that is really important, zinc fumes can cause zinc
flu, so don’t breath them, is in the local of such fumes, leave, get
a breathing unit that will filter out FUMES and VAPORS not just
dust, and make sure that it fits your face well and doesn’t leak on
the inhale part of the breathing cycle… Comments below in the last

John Dach


Wow! Looks like I should just stay in bed under the covers. Oh no,
cotton dust! Never mind. Actually we have a VERY good exhaust system.
So good that it exhausts the heat right out of our house up stairs in
the winter. It adds to our heating bill, but it’s a small price to

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer


I can concur with this. I have a basically auto immune lung
disorder. When my doc found out that I made jewelry at first he told
me I had to stop.

When I asked why, he said there were too many things that I worked
with that would make it worse. He told me if I wanted to keep doing
it I would have to avoid anything that involved flames (which really
bummed me out since the next thing I wanted to learn was to solder),
and anything that involved small particles being put into the air.
When I asked if it was OK if I wore a mask, he said only if I was
doing it for a short time, like hand polishing, drilling under water
etc. Anything that involved something like a polishing machine,
drilling for long periods of time, etc., the mask wouldn’t be enough
and even a ventilation system wouldn’t be enough. I also have to
avoid fumes, hence no LOS.

It’s kind of restricted what I can do, to say the least, but it also
allows me to be challenged as to what I can come up with using sheet
and wire that doesn’t require any of the above. I have to rely a lot
more on design skills, imagination, etc., to make pieces that are

The bright side, however, is that at least I still get to make
things and do something I love. Without that, what’s the point?

Laura SA


Hi all,

There is a wealth of detail on this and related issues here at

For a listing of my extracts from the book "The Jewelry Workshop
Safety Report’ at the ganoksin project have a look at these links: