Welding Rods and Asbestos Exposure
Welding became the industry standard for metalwork leaving blacksmiths relegated as a cottage craft. Though electric arc welding was safer than hand-forged blacksmithing, it had its health hazards. That’s because, until the 1980s, most welding rods contained dangerous asbestos fibers.
Welding rods are the disposable or consumable electrodes used in arc welding. The electric arc is one welding form.
Other welding processes like brazing with oxygen-acetylene heat and MIG welding also used rods, but electric arc welding was by far the biggest consumer of asbestos rods.
Billions of asbestos electrodes were melted over an 80-year period until the health risks from asbestos exposure became widely known.
In the 1980s, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) enacted a total ban on American asbestos products. That included phasing out welding rods containing asbestos.
Although production of new rods stopped, there were still millions of asbestos welding rods on supply shelves. They continued selling far into the twenty-first century.