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Custom Thoriated Tungsten Electrodes essay paper sample

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  1.  What are the hazards of thorium?

Thorium, in high levels, can cause not only health hazards but also environmental damage. Since it is a radioactive substance “that primarily emits alpha particles as well as some beta and gamma radiation,” extreme caution must be used when “preparing to perform gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW)” (American Welding Society, 2003). According to Edouard Bastarache, “Exposure can reduce the ability of the bone marrow to make white blood cells.” Not only that Thorium Dioxide has been shown to cause various types of cancer including angiosarcoma, liver and kidney tumors, lymphoma, and other tumors of the circulatory system. It also may cause damage to the reproductive system; it can scar the lungs, and damage the liver and kidneys.

  1. What is the source of thorium exposure during use of thoriated tungsten electrodes?

The source is the dust caused by grinding the thorium electrodes. The preparation of thorium for GTAW includes grinding its electrodes which can cause dust. If the dust is inhaled, internal radiation damage can occur. Also, the dust will affect the environment if not contained.

  1. What controls would you specify?

To prevent possible internal damage by inhaling the thoriated electrodes during the preparation for GTAW, some simple measures should be taken. First, using thorium-free electrodes will eliminate the problem. There are other tungsten electrodes that contain cerium, lanthanum, yttrium, or zirconium that can be used instead. Also, being well-informed helps to reduce risk of exposure out of ignorance to the problem. One good source of information is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for tungsten electrodes. Thorium should only be used in a designated marked area and any processing done with thorium should be “mechanized, enclosed or automated” (Bastarache, 2008). Workers should wear protective clothing and wash thoroughly after using thorium and at the end of the shift. A wielder should not grind the thorium electrodes without a high-efficiency dust collection system in place. Such a system will collect the radioactive particles created during grinding. This way they will not lay around and become active again when stirred up by someone sweeping, dusting, or walking by. Before arc welding using thoriated tungsten electrodes, a person should be sure the ventilation system s/he will be using to capture the particles is an adequate system for the job. If the welding is an ongoing process, then the ventilation system should be routinely maintained and evaluated for any failures in its collection system. Every business that uses thoriated tungsten should have standard operating procedures in place. If they do not, they should develop the procedures right away to limit the damage to workers’ health and the environment. Every staff member should know how to handle these dangerous particles to minimize the risk of exposure. Finally, providing training will help to reduce the dangers of thorium. The training would specifically focus on welding, grinding, personal hygiene and safety when using thoriated tungsten.

  1. Who would have to implement the AWS recommended controls for thorium exposure?

According to the EPA website, information and regulation of thorium is controlled by them. There are three ways the EPA deals specifically with thorium and other radioactive materials, including the Superfund, who provides EPA radiation guidance and reports, the Clean Air Act that “sets limits on the emissions of hazardous air pollutants from specific sources,” and Radionuclides in Drinking Water which “provides information about radionuclides in drinking water and guidance to help states and water systems comply with the standard” (EPA, 2011). 

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