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Thread: Hazardous woods/inhalation

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    The Couv, Washington

    Hazardous woods/inhalation

    Hi everyone.
    Was wondering the other day about particular woods and how hazardous they are to breathe.
    Was talking to my next door neighbor and he said one to look out for is spalted maple. He said it was one of the worst ones to be breathing the dust from.
    So my question is are there some woods (including melamine, plywood etc.)
    that I should be very careful with as far as wearing my respirator?
    My assumption is the man made materials would be the worst.

    What say you:
    We put the "k" in "kwality."

    The above picture is not me!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Tokiwadai, Japan
    Add Ipe and Cedar to your list....

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Yes, the mold that causes spalting can be bad to breathe. As I understand it, it affects some people more than others, but it's not good for any of us. In bad cases, it can land you in the hospital, and in extreme cases, the morgue. Respirators are highly recommended, even when turning wet spalted wood.

    You're also right about some of the nasties in man-made materials. When in doubt, wear the respirator. (And even when you're not in doubt.)

    I found several articles searching Google for "wood dust toxicity", but this is one I've seen referred to in other places:
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan


    craig you right in asking your question and vaughn has lead you to the info that is pretty good too but if i may suggest: make a poll of who on here uses a respirator and how often or at all,,, unfrotunatly there many of us who dont use them as we should...if you are fresh at this your already asking the right questions
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada

    This subject changed my whole outlook towards woodworking. I think you would do yourself a major service by reading about wooddust in general. Take a look at a guy that is frequently refered to in this area by the name of Bill Pentz. He has a website that is devoted to the topic of wooddust as well as dust collection.
    For me, it was an awakening. This might sound crazy to many of the seasoned vets hear but I learnt my woodworking from highschool many years ago. Then in doing DIY with my Dad around the house. Never in all this time did the topic of wood dust come up. So i set up shop in my basement, and set about doing some projects. It was one weekend of cutting MDF and the dust flying everywhere that made me wake up. Breathing in that stuff I began to realize something was not right. Then I noticed I started wheezing after each time i spent decent hours in my basement. I decided to do something about the dust and began researching the topic and came across Bills site. Call me an idiot but it never occurred to me that natural products like wood would cause such grief. Thats when i decided to build my shop and deal with dust so I can do woodworking with piece of mind that I am not slowly killing myslef. Living in Canada, winter is the perfect time for this hobby. That said Bill makes the point of how hobby woodworkers recirculate the wooddust in their shops due to the closed up environment as a result of the weather.
    I also did not want my family being exposed to the dust though the house.
    Sorry if this looks like I hijacked your thread but I felt the topic is not merely which of the woods are toxic, I think the subject is any dust and how we deal with it, given most of us are not talking about a one time or couple of times exposure to it.

    Last point I think the machine manufacturers are only just starting to consider dealing with this subject. Maybe they see in the distant future the advent of lawsuites similar to the tobacco industry whereby people have managed to blame someone else for their illness when in fact they never took any precautions themselves.

    Here is a link to Bills site.

    P.S. Good to hear you use protection.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    This could help too. As far as respirators, I only DON'T wear one when what I am doing is pretty clean. As an example; my tablesaw pick up is good if I have upper and lower ducts going and the roll-up door 4 feet behind me is up and the side door is open allowing a good breeze. When I run a sled I cannot use the overarm pickup so I wear a respirator.

    Any "DON'T wear" scenarios change to "DO wear" scenarios when the materials demand it which is frequently. Get yourself a decent, comfortable respirator and wear it frequently. I wear bi-focal safety glasses and so my headgear cannot skew my glasses or it messes with my vision. Still, I wear this and this, both reasonably priced, and have no problems with them . . . YHSMV (Your Head Shape May Vary) .

    There are respirators with better numbers but this one doesn't block my vision and I will actually wear it. The Peltor's come in a couple models up that reduce levels even further for just a few dollars more. If I had known about them when I bought these, I would have gotten these (every 6db is heard by us humans as approximatly twice / half as much volume).
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Safety-001.jpg  
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 12-06-2008 at 03:35 PM.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  7. #7
    Craig, as others have mentioned, you need to be informed about breathing any wood related dust. I don't know if you plan to work with many "exotic" woods, but those can cause problems that most domestic woods will not.

    There is an old saying........"There are two types of woodworkers......those that are allergic to Cocobolo........and those that will be!"

    Personally, I haven't found any woods to date that I am sensitive to, and I have worked with most all of the domestics and many, many exotics. But, I am as careful as I can be about exposure to dust. On the other hand, you can only protect yourself to a reasonable extent. If you work with are exposed. Just be informed and protect yourself as much as you can.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    You asked about "particular" woods.
    Some types can be more harmful to some individuals than others.
    Rob pointed you in a good direction. Read up on the subject.
    But, in general, the import woods of the rosewood family are all considered irritants. e.g. cocobolo, rosewood and down the line. I think all woods from tropic zones are highly suspect as well.
    I am particularly sensitive to aromatic red cedar dust and Osage Orange dust and wear a mask when I am using the bandsaw on these.
    I work in a closed environment, almost like Stu's dungeon. But, in nice weather I can open a big door at one end. Cold like now, I'm sealed in.
    On my lathe, I have a small fan that blows dust down and away from my face.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    The Couv, Washington
    I have a respirator that I bought for paint fumes and is comfortable to wear.
    No worries Rob about hijacking the thread. I was reading about Bills website on another forum.
    I think what I will do since I am also working in an enclosed area that I will try and wear my respirator as much as possible just to be safe.
    It cant be any different than safety glasses or ear protection.
    Cant afford not to.
    I dont have any dust collection devices yet either. Thats a future purchase.
    On the other hand I am leery about having my garage door open due to my concerns about someone seeing my equipment and deciding they need my gear more than I do. Theft is always a concern for me. Thats why I try and work with the door closed. Call me paranoid.
    We put the "k" in "kwality."

    The above picture is not me!!

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