Woodworkers need to not only pay attention to the dangers of the tools that they use, but to the materials that they use as well. More specifically, some attention needs to be given to wood itself and the various ways it can cause harm while at work.
There are a variety of woods from both the domestic and exotic categories that woodworkers come into contact with and it is important to take precautions when working with all of them. While there are very few that are actually toxic, there are a larger number of woods considered to still be a large risk to your health. Typically, a wood is classified as “harmful” when it is known to trigger allergic reactions. However, ALL inhaled wood dust is hazardous and can lead to a variety of health issues such as dermatitis, respiratory disease, and cancer.
To keep it simple, there are three categories of toxicity:
- Sensitization – This type of toxicity is one that builds over time and may not show symptoms until a later stage. Sensitizers are allergic reactions that from after repeated exposure. Some may experience an immediate reaction after the first contact with wood, while others may not feel signs of reaction until much later on. One reason why respiratory protection is so crucial from day one.
- Irritation – We hear it from woodworkers time and time again; after a brief stint of sanding or grinding, the inevitable itching, watery eyes, and sneezing begins. The longer the exposure time to the dust and the higher the concentration of the dust, the more irritation we are likely to feel. This is because fine dust from wood easily irritates our skin, mucous membranes and respiratory tracts by drying out their surfaces (dust absorbs moisture).
- Poisoning - There many natural woods available on our commercial markets that contain lethal chemicals. There are also many poisonous plants/trees that hold the poison within their bark/sap. Because of this, it is imperative to take necessary safety precautions when working with wood.
The Best Ways To Stay Safe From The Wood?
- Use an all in one respirator mask that covers both your eyes and your mouth
- Wear proper gloves and full clothing as a barrier between the wood and your skin
- Ensure that you have proper ventilation and a vacuum within your shop
It is important to note that despite some woods giving off a pleasant odor and being rated as low risk, their dust is STILL harmful to your health.
It is better to stay safe and stay protected from the get go than be sorry and potentially risk what is most valuable to you; your health.
To understand the toxicity/harmful levels of different types of woods, we have included a link to our favorite wood reference chart: https://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity/
Stay Safe Out There.