A new generation of arc welder has recently become widely available at a price which is within reach of most amateurs and part-time mechanics, known as the MIG welder (metal-arc inert gas welder). In MIG welding the arc is ensheathed in a stream of inert gas which prevents the molten metal from oxidising. The stream of gas changes the character of the emitted radiation, and it is possible that this type of welder poses a greater threat to sight than previously recognised. Radiation in the ultraviolet range emitted by arc welders is absorbed by the unprotected cornea and lens, giving rise to a keratoconjunctivitis, or 'arc-eye,' which, though intensely painful, is not considered a threat to sight. Radiation in the visible and near infrared spectrum, however, penetrates the eye to be absorbed by the retina and may cause thermal or photochemical damage which may be permanent and sight-threatening. Retinal injuries resulting from exposure to ordinary electric welding arcs have been reported, but such injuries are uncommon. Two cases of retinal burns resulting from exposure to MIG welder emissions which presented on consecutive days to the Leicester Royal Infirmary are presented. This is the first report of such injuries relating specifically to MIG welding.
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