Wood Dust

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Dangers of Wood Dust Safety Talk

Wood dust is 1 of 119 agents listed as “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency of Research on Cancer also known as IARC. A carcinogen is defined as any substance or agent that tends to produce a cancer. Many individuals are exposed to wood dust both in the workplace and at home. It is important to understand its hazards.

Health Effects of Overexposure to Wood Dust

There are a few different hazards associated with wood dust besides just the dust itself. There are biological organisms such as mold and fungi which grow on the wood that can create health issues. Chemicals such as formaldehyde, copper naphthanate, and pentachlorophenol used in the processing of some woods are also a health concern when dealing with wood dust.

According to OSHA, “overexposure to wood dust has long been associated with a variety of adverse health effects, including dermatitis, allergic respiratory effects, mucosal and nonallergic respiratory effects, and cancer. Contact with the irritant compounds in wood sap can cause dermatitis and other allergic reactions. The respiratory effects of wood dust exposure include asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and chronic bronchitis.”

Best Practices to Reduce Overexposure to Wood Dust

  • Engineering controls are the most effective way to prevent dust from becoming airborne or left to collect in the workplace. Ventilation systems or collection systems with collection points at the sources creating dust is a common effective engineering control.
  • Good housekeeping is important in work environments that create a lot of wood dust.
  • Use respirators when engineering controls are not enough to protect you from overexposure to wood dust.
  • Avoid the point of operation of a work task or equipment that creates a lot of dust whenever possible.

Summary

Many tools and pieces of equipment used in wood manufacturing or woodworking have engineering controls to protect the user. It is important to use these controls to reduce exposure to this dust. Understand the specific hazards and mitigation actions for the type of wood dust you are dealing with at work or at home.

Discussion point:

-Are there any other safeguards or best practices we can use to prevent overexposure?

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