The goal of the present study was to analyze the relationship between the fume formation rate, welding conditions, chemical composition of welding fume particles and their size. In the range from 0.25 to 16 mu m aerodynamic diameter, three distinct types of welding fume particles were identified in the welder's breathing zone. The elemental composition of each type depended completely on the used welding materials, and reflects their mechanism of formation. Their relative abundance in the welding fume appeared to be dependent on the electrode coating, as well as the heat input during welding. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.