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Inhalation of fresh zinc oxide causes chills; aka- zinc chills, brass founders ague, oxide shakes, etc. But if the oxide is a few hours old it will not cause chills. I had them once long ago, an old experience person explained the situation which I had never heard of. Pollution controls and modern safety practice have made it very rare in the US today. It can occur if one inadvertently causes a "zinc boil" by overheating a brass melt or oxy-acetylene cutting galvanized steel, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you include a reference to something besides your personal experience? It seems very unlikely to me that anything here is involving the "fresh"ness of anything; it sounds like you're talking about a situation where there are inhalable metal oxides present compared to a situation where there are not inhalable metal oxides present. In that case the "why" is a bit boringly obvious, is it not? Can you clarify your question to make it more clear where the uncertainty lies? $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 14 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ I'd wager that your "old zinc oxide" is nothing more than rough-powdered whereas the irritant stuff from welding is nanometre-sized and finely dispersed in air (from experience and observation). $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ this is possibly because fresh zinc in the air is not fully oxidized and the old zinc in the air are.maybe you can ask a related question over at chemistry.stackexchange.com and link to this one. $\endgroup$ Apr 15 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ Is what you're describing the same as metal fume fever? This article describes it and says the particle size should be under 1 micron for acute systemic effects, and also says that aggregation of these particles occurs. Do you know whether the old oxide you describe clumps up into larger particles? $\endgroup$ Apr 18 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ Note the reference states "freshly formed" zinc oxide. Also, Zinc oxide is produced by mixing hot zinc vapor ( very small particles) with air. Wikipedia article not accurate ; i am looking for the book reference. $\endgroup$ Apr 18 at 20:11

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