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Risks of low-level manganese exposure

Welders in Louisiana should know that exposure to low levels of manganese can result in neurological problems that are similar to Parkinson's disease. This conclusion resulted from a study conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine.

The manganese levels that can cause the neurological issues were well below the limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, whose permissible exposure limit is 5 milligrams of manganese per cubic meter of air. Neurological complications began to materialize in workers who were exposed to only 0.14 milligrams of manganese per cubic meter of air. Also, the more exposure the welders had to fumes containing manganese, the quicker their symptoms progressed.

The results of the research strongly indicate that current safety regulations may provide inadequate protection for welders. The findings show that manganese, which is essential to multiple industrial processes, can result in manganism at high levels of exposure. The symptoms of the condition are comparable to Parkinson's disease and include tremors, mood changes, complications with speaking and walking, slowness and clumsiness.

The dangers that manganese exposure presents is what led to OSHA establishing manganese limits for the workplace years ago. While there is a belief that the risk of manganism has been eliminated, experts have suspected that even low levels of exposure that are far below the PEL still present health risks. A senior author of the study concluded that a reduction of the levels of manganese allowed by OSHA may have a substantial effect on risks to the health and safety of welders.

A worker who suffers a workplace injury because his or her employer failed to maintain a safe working environment may be entitled to financial compensation. A workers' compensation attorney may be able to help an employee obtain a monetary settlement that could be applied to medical expenses and more.

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