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Wood Dust

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Hazard Recognition

Wood dust has several hazards associated with exposure to it in the workplace. In general, exposure to excessive amounts is considered to have an irritant effect on eyes, nose and throat in addition to pulmonary function impairment and is considered a human carcinogen. Western red cedar dust has also been shown to cause asthma. Significant accumulations of fine particles of wood dust can also be a fire and explosion hazard in the workplace. The following web pages list different types of woods and provide information about each one and how they may affect humans.

Toxicity
  • Report on Carcinogens (RoC). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Toxicology Program (NTP). Identifies and discusses agents, substances, mixtures, or exposure circumstances that may pose a health hazard due to their carcinogenicity. The listing of substances in the RoC only indicates a potential hazard and does not establish the exposure conditions that would pose cancer risks to individuals.
    • Wood Dust. NTP classification: Known to be a human carcinogen
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks for Humans. World Health Organization (WHO).
    • Wood Dust. IARC Classification: Carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).
  • Wood Dust. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (January 19, 1989). OSHA comments from the January 19, 1989 Final Rule on Air Contaminants Project extracted from 54 FR 2332 et. seq. This rule was remanded by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the limits are not currently in force, and contains data from animal studies and human epidemiological studies on the health effects of wood dust.
  • Particulates (Not Otherwise Regulated). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (January 19, 1989). OSHA comments from the January 19, 1989 Final Rule on Air Contaminants Project extracted from 54 FR 2332 et. seq.
  • Toxic Woods. Health and Safety Executive (HSE), (October 1997). Identifies health effects of wood exposures and precautions, and includes a table of woods and their effects.
  • Wood Dust and Occupational Asthma. Occupational Health Surveillance and Evaluation Program (OHSEP), Occupational Health Branch, California Department of Health Services and Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP), Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, (January 2004).
Biological Hazards and Chemical Additives

The health effects associated with wood dust come not only from the wood dust itself but also biological organisms such as mold and fungi which grow on the wood, and chemicals such as formaldehyde, copper naphthanate, and pentachlorophenol used in the processing of some woods.

Dust Explosions

In addition to the health effects of wood dust, airborne dust can create the potential for a dust explosion.

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