Sawdust & toxicity

We all are aware of the dangers of cedar sawdust, right?

But I read in Canoe Paddles by Warren & Gidmark that ash dust is a carcinogen. A Google search so far has turned up nada, but my search parameters may be inexact. Anyone have info or opinions on this?


but I just coughed up an emerald ash borer

I never worried about sawdust.
Epoxy dust is another issue.

I didn’t know about cedar sawdust but
I worry about the lead paint in my house as I work with the renovations. Since I avoid chewing on the windowsills as much as possible, I think I’ll be okay.

Let me go back an’ see
if ah’ kin find de back issue of Fine Woodworkin’ (me’thinks) dat had an article about different woods’ toxic properties. Ah’ll post it wann (if) ah’ find it.


Found de link

Ah’s dun’t see ash in thaar, thogh.


Found some info

I need to wear a mask ANYTIME I sand. Of course, the info provided in this link is aimed at workers exposed during a full shift of operations.


I had wondered
about that when I read his book too. I wondered if I was going to die from re-gunwaleing and refinishing. At least I had fun doing it!

I have a copy of Understanding Wood by R Bruce Hoadley at home. I should check out what they have to say. Great book BTW, if you ever want to know anything about wood.

huh, its in google books…

Dust Hazards
For the occasional woodworker it’s probably a minor issue. Use a disposable dust mask, especially when creating fine dust as in sanding operations. If you can work outside and keep the wind behind you (or a fan behind you) that’s a good precaution. For a cheap indoor dust collector, take a cheap box fan and tape a disposable furnace filter over the intake side of it.

For those of us who spend a great deal of time working with wood it’s a much bigger deal. I try to capture as much dust as possible at the source using vacume attachments, a dust collector or both. I keep air filters running in the shop and I wear a mask when warranted.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Dust & longevity
I have been working with wood all my life, cutting, milling, turning and sanding plus sanding and removing various paints,and finishes and have never worn a mask or used dust removal during operation work equipment but I’m only 59 and healthy as a bull.

I’ve also stuffed loose asbestos in a 12’ x 12’ x 8’ cryogenic plantby hand without a respirator for days at a time.

I’m not recommending this renegade practice but thought I’d let you know the if you die it probably won’t be from your limited exposure.

There were more than a few
cases of lung disease and related illnesses down in the western carolinas back when places like Black Mtn Woodworking were in full swing.

I use a painters mask(with the removable filter discs)

Better safe than sorry.

Cedar dust bad…
Believe it!

I have an allegic reaction to cedar dust that is eventually going to end my kayak and paddle building.

I can go weeks doing just fine, then sand or cut cedar and spend the next few weeks with draining sinuses, watering eyes, and itchy throat. Its especially bad at night. And did I mention sneezing 15 or 20 times in a minute. My wife says my sneezes have sneezes. Endure it for 2 or 3 weeks, and the symptoms slowly go away…cut or sand some more cedar, and it all starts again.

I wear a respirator/filter with organic vapor and particle filters, but it doesn’t help a lot.


All sawdust
I learned back in grad school (environmental science) that all sawdust is classified as a carcinogen. In some ways acts similar to asbestos or silica, an irritant that causes irregular cell growth.

Pot to the rescue!
Pot smoking was long thought to be more carcinogetic than tobacco smoking because the smoker inhales and holds the smoke, and because there is more tar than in tobacco.

Studies proved differently. Pot smokers had less cancer, and that even included pot smokers who were also tobacco fiends.

Researchers theorize that the THC actually kills off lung cells. The dead cells strip off and go wherever the body takes dead cells. Thus, lung cells that may have become malignent are removed and replaced by new grown cells.

Clearly, this research shows that if you work where there is a lot of saw dust, you should be smoking a lot of pot to protect yourself. You may need to have somebody roll the joints for you after you forget what you are doing and loose a few digits on the table saw, but at least you won’t die of lung cancer!


I can see it now

– Last Updated: Dec-12-07 9:14 PM EST –

"Chip's Big Book of Woodworking".

Chapter #1 - Choosing appropriate munchies.


Western Red Cedar, I know it well!
My home is one of those do it yourself log home kits. And the walls and all trim work is WRC. The log walls were pre milled and cut. No problem. The trim was all cedar diminsion lumber that had to be made into trim. Routing, ripping, shaping etc; all in the garage with the doors usually down. Now as mentioned previously, just making one cut brings on the reaction. The typical allergy symptoms. My shop now has a 2 hp commercial type dust collection system and some air filters and I now wear a mask, always. But cedar still fires me up. For a time I was afraid I’d have to move out of the home I struggled two+ years to build.

Quit sanding
You still have to cut , but you can limit your sanding by doing it the old way. Use a scraper. Finishing scrapers are available at duckworks and other wood working suppliers.

Hmm… Have been tearing off and
sawing western red cedar on our deck. No problem yet.

I was thinking of making some bird and bat houses out of the 20 year old torn-off cedar deck board remnants. Will the birdies and batties thank me for it?

The carpenter bees love western red cedar, and we have a squirrel who eats some every day. He’s pretty old, for a squirrel… maybe 4-5 years. Who does squirrel scans?

WoodenBoat recently had an article on reducing dust exposure. The author made the same point – that by using tools that make shavings instead of dust(planes, scrapers, etc.)-- you can dramatically reduce the airborne particle problem.

For the times you have to make dust, or need fume protection, the 3M 7500 respirator is the most comfortable half-mask I’ve tried.

Working outside like that
is probably pretty low risk.