A poster here recently claimed that, regardless of welding helmet used, welding causes eye damage.
Is that true?
Additionally, it was also claimed that the cheap (AKA fifty dollar HF helmets) will allow more of this eye damage to occur than expensive helmets.
Is that true?
The reason for my concern is that if I am damaging my eyes every time I weld, I will sell the box tomorrow and never do it again; going blind is not worth the ability to weld.
Further, I am trusting my ability to see on a fifty dollar HF helmet, but if it is unable to protect my eyes from damaging rays, that too will be gone (I use safety glasses under the helmet, as the instructions which came with the helmet instructed me to do).
So, aside from unsubstantiated claimes, what is the truth here regarding welding and ocular damage?
My opinion is that if you use a welding mask, you will be all right. This is not to say that the filter will block all uv, but it will block enough that what remains is equivalent to being outside on a cloudy day without sun glasses. And as far as I know the cheap helments use the same types of materials as the expensive ones. So the uv filtering pretty much the same. I think there is some differences in that the more expensive helments probably have filters that are more uniform in filtering the visable light.
Since I've been using a Harbor Freight helmet for a couple of years, I've been following the "is a HF helmet any good" threads with interest. The threads of the last couple of days has motivated me to do a little ferreting myself, and I will report what I learned. Much of this has been mentioned in various threads here before and I may only be verifying it. I am not stating the following as unimpeachable; this is only what I've found out after an hour or so of snooping around, and have I no vested opinion...
There are a couple of ANSI standards that seem worthwhile to consider. The first is ANSI Z87.1-1989 and the second is ANSI Z87.1-2003. Here's a quote talking about the change in standards in the market and why we should care if we're looking at auto darkening helmets. From a release in 2006: "Although it has taken several years, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has approved the new "Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protective Devices" standard- ANSI Z87.1-2003.
There are several changes and minor alterations to the old standard (ANSI Z87.1-1989) that went into effect in 1989 and were re-affirmed in 1998."
To clarify the transmittance ranges for special purpose lenses, Table 2- Transmittance Requirements for Special-Purpose Lenses-has been added. Table
3, Switching Index Requirements for Automatic Darkening Welding Filter Lenses, has been added to specify switching index times for Auto Darkening Filters (ADFs)."
There are other changes in the ANSI standards, but the above paragraph seems most on point. I could not find the text of the ANSI standards. I wanted to find the tables mentioned to see if I could find out what the 2003 requirements are for switching since switching time seems to be regularly mentioned at the HF site. I'm inferring from what I've read that there are no 1989 standards for switching, but I could easily be wrong.
I then went to the Harbor Freight site, the Jackson/Huntsman site, and a site with info on the Optrel helmets. HF, either on the page for a specific helmet or in the manual for a helmet, state that the helmet(s) meets the
1989 standard. Jackson/Huntsman does not specifically mention if their helmets meet any ANSI standard, although one blurb from a press release states that one of their lenses meets the 1989 standards, and one of their safety goggles meets the 2003 standards (probably for impact resistance). The Optrel info says that the helmets meet the ANSI 1989 standards.
I spent some time looking for studies on eye damage and welding and while I found some info (much of it from Australia oddly enough), none of it seems to be directed at the differences between various auto darkening helmets or even on the AD helmets generally other than to say that they are a "Good Thing".
From what I've read UV and IR seems to have the potential to do the most damage to the eyes, and both welding industry info and medical info say that the unswitched lens of any auto darkening helmet protects the eyes fairly completely from UV and IR rays. This technology is embedded in many sunglasses, and is for the most part fool proof. It seems to me that welding helmets in general provide equal protection if one believes what the manufacturers state.
Protection against "flashing" is what the switching speed is all about, and seems to be what the ANSI 2003 standards address. From the little time I've spent looking at this it appears that most (all?) welding helmets meet the
1989 - and not the 2003 - standards for switching (which may mean no standards at all since I can't find the ANSI 1989 text). I have not found a helmet manufacturer that talks about meeting the 2003 standards for their lens. This isn't a surprise given that the 2003 standards weren't adopted until 2006. I am not saying that a 2003 compliant AD lens doesn't exist - only that I couldn't find anything about it during my sojourn. If this is true, we are left to determine how the switching speeds between the cheap lenses and the upmarket lenses compare, and if this has any impact on the relative safety of the lens/helmet. Once again, it seems to me that a main concern regarding comparative safety is if one believes what the manufacturer says.
Although I can see that if one does not trust the claims of the cheap helmet manufacturers that the HF helmets and their ilk would seem risky. I came away feeling like the cheap helmets are safe. While I am not a five-day-a-week kind of welder, I have spent a number of six hour days welding in my HF special, and have not experienced any eye fatigue beyond what I've experienced using snootier (although non-auto darkening) helmets.
Having said that, I recently tried on some Jackson and Huntsman helmets at a local welding store. While I wasn't impressed at all with the Jacksons, I fell in love with the Huntsman 951; it was WAY more comfortable than my HF helmet, enough so that I'm on the prowl for a 951 with some type of AD lens. Maybe the reason the Jackson helmet wasn't comfortable was simply my head shape. I can't wear Simpson motorsports helmets, but Bell helmets fit me perfectly - go figure.
Anyhow, it's late and I've undoubtedly forgotten something, misstated some vital piece of info, or didn't include some piece of logic, but there you go. I'll be interested in any info someone else has.
Yes it is "dangerous", but that does not mean it is guaranteed harmful.
It has the potential to do immediate painful damage and long term low impact damage, but you will not go blind from hobby welding, unless you try arc welding with gas welding goggles, and keep doing it despite the agony.
The short term damage is called a Flash Burn. This happens if you view a welding arc at close range with no, or little, protection. You effectively sunburn you cornea. If this occurs, your eyes will start to feel warm soon after and the next day it will feel like you have crushed glass under your eyelids. This is the outer layer of cornea skin cells sloughing off.
It is nearly impossible to get permanent eye damage from one case of flash burn.
What causes long term eye damage is welding in an industrial setting with multiple welders working in one area. You will constantly be catching other people's welding arcs without your hood down.
This constant low level exposure causes your rods and cones to slowly deteriorate in the center of your vision. This can reduce your night-vision and eventually makes your vision a bit fuzzy in the center.
This is common in older ironworkers and boilermakers.
If you take a modern healthy approach to protecting your eyes then there is little chance you will suffer permanent eye damage.
All LCD welding lenses have to pass the ANSI code for safety. This means that even if the lens fails to operate, no harmful amount of UV rays are allowed through the lens.
A cheap helmet can make your eyes sore because it doesn't react as fast or as consistently as a quality lens, so your eyes will catch flashes of bright light on each weld. While this is unlikely to damage your eyes it can make them sore.
Never watch a welding arc without proper eye protection.
I have no clue how dangerous it is. But I have opinions I will share with you....
Plenty of welders have spent a life time welding and have not had serious eye problems any worse that we all tend to get when we get old. If they had, they government would be all over it increasing the safety regulations. This occupation hasn't changed all that much in regards to the damage an arc will do to your eyes in 50 years. If you plan to start welding 8 hours a day and expect to keep this up for 40 years, it's probably wise to buy the best you can afford, but if you only expect to weld an hour a week, then the damage you will do in 50 years is equal to what a full time welder does to his eyes in 10 months. If full time welders have done it 10 years without noticing any eye problems, the odds of a very part time welder having problems is very slim. I doubt the difference between the quality of a HF helmet and a top of the line helmet is going to make any difference.
In addition, the UV light, which is the most harmful to the eyes, is blocked not by the electronics, but by the permanent UV filters built into the lens. So for the basic UV protection, it's not a question of how fast the electronics switch. Even if the battery is dead, you still get full UV protection from any autodarkening helmet. And as far as I know, there is nothing high cost about UV filters - so I think all the helmets have the same basic UV protection.
In addition, if you have polycarbonate safety glasses, they alone provide a very high level of UV protection. I believe the plastic face cover plates that come with most auto darkening helmets are also polycarbonate. My arc-one helmet has a polycarbonate face place both in front of, and behind the autodarkening lens. Combine that with the UV/IR protection of the lens itself, with the protection of my safety glasses, and I suspect the total exposure I get from arc welding is an order of magnitude less than what I would get out in the sun without sun glasses on.
I just did a lot of web searching to try and find some data on exactly how much UV radiation welding gives off, but couldn't find any numbers. However, welding will sunburn you faster than being in the sun (so I'm told), but not a lot faster. So I'm guessing welding probably can't be more than 5x the radiation the sun is putting out (and I suspect that's a high number). Polycarbonate is said to reduce UV by something like 99.9%. So it seems to me a single polycarbonate shield will reduce 5x welding radiation to .005% of what unfiltered sunlight will do to your eyes.
The net result I believe is that any welding helmet - even the cheapest - is going to reduce the UV radiation to a fraction of what you get from normal sunlight.
If you are going to be a professional welder and spend a life time welding (and working outside where you are getting lots of sun exposure when you are not welding) then there's plenty of reason for taking lots of extra precautions for both your eyes and your skin. But if you only weld part time, I strongly suspect all welding helmets, even the cheapest ones from HF, will protect you more than enough.
The largest danger I suspect in being around welding probably comes from all the times you are near other people welding when you are wearing no protection. 10 seconds of indirect exposure without protection I bet is far worse for your eyes than an hour of exposure with a cheap welding helmet on.
But, this is all pure speculation on my part. Don't trust your eyesight on anything I've written. :)
This is how I understood the differences. It's all reaction time. The rest is bells and whistles. Always wear ANSI z-87.1 approved safety glasses, and the flash burns will be kept to a minimum. Per Ernie's recco, I have the Jackson NexGen auto lens in a Huntsman 951P Hood. Much lighter & more comfortable. Easier on the neck.
A bit of nickpicking[tm] here: The "classical" flashing happens, when you look into an arc unprotected. That happened at the times when auto-helmets were out of existence. Remember? "Good" old times? With the auto-helmets, you don't get *that* flashing anymore (feels like someone stuffed rockwool under your eye-lids*)) but you get just dizzy (?) for some seconds. That doesn't make more harm than like looking into a flash-light.
*) Don't know whether it's available where you live, but I use(d) eye-drops called "DuraUltra" when I got flashed (didn't happen anymore since long, thanks to auto-helmet). They were really good.
And, to see what your helmet does, they all have stamped the ANSI-code they conform to onto the darkening assembly. If not, throw it away. Furthermore, I wouldn't trust a Chinese declaration of conformance.
That is quite rightly simple! I had short term damage to the point of looking like I had colds in my eyes and black spots for a few days.. the healing brought fluids in my eyes,after a short blast involuntarily up close , there was even some debris. (easy thing to do). Ate alot of veggies, its taken a month or so.Back to normal. It seems looking at the sun without glasses is more dangerous than welding with a mask on. if it is sold as helmet for welding, the shades have to be correct- illegal to sell otherwise.
long term looking at a computer monitor has got me more worried about long term eyesight than anything.
Trust that helmet- the auto dims are better than ever.
i read all the replies thus far. i can just say this. you get what you pay for. as example, the filters from 3M are multi-layered lcd panels with static passive filters in between. the more layers the better the filtering. as such they cost a lot.
even the visible wavelength of the arc can be damaging to the eye when the intensity gets real high.
i had two HF helmets. listen to me, skip the HF helmets and get yourself one of the Miller helmets (pick a helmet for what you do, hobbyist, daily weldor, production weldor, etc). the HF manual says to uses safety glasses, i believe here in the states thats a OSHA standard, and its good practice, its another layer of eye protection. i like to use safety glasses with yellow lenses (polarizing if possible). human eyes are most sensitive to yellow bandwidth, so when you band-pass yellow the other crud is filtered out. the result is your eyes see more clarity and definition of the work piece.
The main point about auto-dark helmets is: Whether cheap or expensive, if the autodark mechanism is dead, never turns on - you are _still_ protected from the UV/IR. You may get an uncomfortable overload of visible light, but you will not get the damaging UV/IR causing an actual burn. This is one reason that autodark helmets are "a good thing" - you can leave your helmet down more, and reduce the odds of either getting flashed by others, or flashing yourself as you frig around trying to get the arc started in the right place and flip your helmet down. A fixed-shade-filter helmet that's not over your eyes does exactly nothing.
That's the thing. You don't always get what you pay for. I'd be surprised if anyone on this newsgroup believes that to be universally true. Take generic drugs as an example. The manufacturers sell the drugs for what they can while the patent is in force. After that one can get them cheaper. HF may be able to sell their helmets for less even though they may use a good (in terms of protection) filter by using cheaper helmet components, or by committing to buy a number of helmets far greater than the number of helmets to which a high dollar distributor would commit. I suspect both are true.
I'm not saying that a HF lens without question is as good as a Huntsman, but that they might be. They seem to be meeting the same ANSI standards that Jackson, Huntsman and Optrel meet.
Again, I'd be glad to see something that shows that a NexGen lens is better for one's eyes than a HF lens. I just haven't seen anything that suggests that; if anything what I've seen suggests they're all pretty much the same.
I didn't say they were as good, but only that I haven't found anything substantial that suggests that the HF helmets are any less safe for one's eyes. The Huntsman is clearly "better"; as you said it has more substantial parts and is more comfortable. As I said, I'm going to buy a Huntsman soon, but not because I believe the lens in my HF helmet to be unsafe.
I have the inexpensive Jackson AD hood (+/- $69), that I got from my industrial welding supplier. I no longer work as a welder full time, so I din't want to part with the money for a high end helmet. I am completely tickled by the helmet, but I don't wear it every day for the whole day. I just really like the accuracy of my starts, afforded by the AD feature.
I never used a HF. I bought the Jackson with the NexGen EQC. But then, I immediately noticed that the lens is too heavy for the Jackson, and it kept dropping on me. So, I had to go get the Huntsman 951P. THEN, I had to write Huntsman and get the special retainer clip to hold the lens in the helmet. It was all worth it.
I really think now (but don't tell others here) that there's not enough difference between response times and protection to say that the hoods that cost 5x what the cheaper one does is 5x better in protection. BUT, there seems to be a little difference in response times, and other minute factors that make the expensive ones just a LITTLE better.
I know the construction and durability of the expensive helmets are better by simple inspection, and I have heard of cheap helmets lasting from five minutes to many years. I have known pipeline welders who could ace x ray every time who used a cheap plastic helmet, and straps of inner tube rubber as headbands.
So, it just comes down to personal preferences. That being said, What are the difference between cheap sunglasses and $200 Oakley's? It's up to the user, just like the difference between a cheap hood and an expensive one.