Dangers breathing wood dust?

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Alan in Little Washington

Alan Schaffter
Corporate Member
PLEASE don't kill the messenger, realize the source is very conservative when it comes to environmental and health matters, and vital information is still lacking, but . . .

". . . effective December 18, 2009, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency is adding the chemicals identified below to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity, for the purposes of Proposition 65:

Wood dust: In 1995, the IARC published Volume 62 of its series, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Here, the IARC concluded that (1) there is sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of wood dust, and (2) wood dust is “carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).” In 2002, the NTP published its Tenth Report on Carcinogens. In this publication, the NTP concluded that wood dust is “known to be a human carcinogen.” Therefore, this substance meets the requirements of both Labor Code sections 6382(b)(1) and (d)."

Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The Proposition was intended by its authors to protect California citizens and the State's drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals. Proposition 65 requires the Governor to publish, at least annually, a list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.)


Background on listing by the Labor Code mechanism: Health and Safety Code section 25249.8(a) incorporated certain provisions of the California Labor Code into Proposition 65. The law requires that certain substances identified by the World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) or the National Toxicology Program (NTP) be listed as known to cause cancer under Proposition 65. Labor Code section 6382(b)(1) refers to substances identified as human or animal carcinogens by the IARC. Labor Code section 6382(d) refers to substances identified as carcinogens or potential carcinogens by the IARC or the NTP.


Though there is an oft quoted British statistical study that states (factory) woodworkers surveyed in 1968 were 1000 times more likely to have respiratory problems, including cancer, than the general population, it is not clear to me that California's actions are based on anything more than anecdotal or statistical evidence. I am still researching the IARC* and NTP source material which resulted in California's action, to see if their determinations were based on direct biological testing, statistical analysis, or what. Also, what has yet to happen is for the OEHHA (or anyone I have seen so far) to establish a "no-significant-risk-level" (NSRL) for exposure to wood dust. Drinking too much water can be hazardous to your health, too!



* Wood dust was classified by IARC as "Sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity" Sufficient in this context means- A causal relationship has been established between exposure to the agent, mixture, or exposure circumstances and human cancer. That is, a positive relationship has been observed between the exposure and cancer in studies in which chance, bias, and confounding could be ruled out with reasonable confidence." While I have no reason to doubt it, it sure sounds anecdotal to me.


Stay tuned. . . .
 

FredP

Fred
Corporate Member
so I guess living in kalyforniya causes cancer and should be avoided at all cost?:dontknow: no problem! havent been there since cancer was invented and didnt leave anything there that I need to go back and get.:rotflm: also since I live in north kakalcky [the no fun zone] I have nothing to fear but fear itself.....:gar-Bi
 

ncreefer

New User
Kevin
Is the danger the wood dust itself? or is it the chemicals used to treat wood? I would think if they are just going off of the the study from 1968, I would like to know if the wood was treated with any chemicals....something to look further into.
 

DavidF

New User
David
I was turning a freshly spalted, still full of fungus, piece of Iron Wood at the weekend, I was a bit concerned at that!!!!
 

CrealBilly

Jeff
Senior User
What does this mean - WWing will be regulated or banned altogether? Will there be a minimum set of requirements set forth into law that dictates what equipment "thou shalt have" and ban "dust spitters" like nasty lathes?
 

timf67

New User
Tim
It just means that if you are an employer in the WW industry you better make sure your employees wear PPE or you will be sued when they get sick.

Since they don't tell you that "thou shalt not smoke" even though it causes cancer I doubt they will say "thou shalt not work wood." They might however ban WW'ing in restaurants and bars... :rotflm::rotflm:
 

FredP

Fred
Corporate Member
They might however ban WW'ing in restaurants and bars... :rotflm::rotflm:[/QUOTE]


:elvis: say it isnt so!!!!:rotflm:
 

CrealBilly

Jeff
Senior User
I don't know last time I was on the left coast - they might want to try and fix the air first before worrying about wood dust, the air was bad.
 

Bas

Recovering tool addict
Bas
Corporate Member
Thanks Alan. It doesn't take a genius to realize breathing in lots of fine dust is probably bad for your health, whether it's wood dust, drywall dust, asbestos dust, plastic dust or pollen. Most of us are also allergic to certain wood species. It all comes down to quantity/ amount of exposure. The upside of this classification is that it might encourage manufacturers to create tools with better dust collection. Apart from the health factor, it'd be nice if you can leave the shop in the evening without your bode all kwogged ub.

Seeing the actual data would be helpful. I doubt that a few hours of woodworking by a hobbyist raises your risk level significantly, but for someone working in a dusty environment 10 hours per day, it's a different story.
 

gazzer

New User
Gazzer
". . . effective December 18, 2009, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency is adding the chemicals identified below to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity, for the purposes of Proposition 65:

it is not clear to me that California's actions are based on anything more than anecdotal or statistical evidence. I am still researching the IARC* and NTP source material which resulted in California's action, to see if there determinations were based on direct biological testing, statistical analysis, or what.

Stay tuned. . . .
My understanding of the CA Prop 65 process is that it is compelled to list something if it is listed by another reliable source. The listing process (involving committee approval)is slow, which is a reason for lagging NTP and IARC, who have listed wood dust for quite a while. NTP (a US govenment group) and IARC (an international org based in France) develop their lists by first, identifying candidate agents, and then reviewing the available research literature. The studies that the listing was based on were epidemiological, meaning that they studied actual humans in occupations likely to be exposed to wood dust. These show a significantly greater incidence of nasopharynx cancers in a variety of occupations compared to general public. One of the problems with epidemiological studies is that, though they can show the long term effect of a particular agent, they don't pin the effect very well to actual exposures. Essentially, a furniture maker who sands all day without protection is considered the same as another who drives nails all day, even though their dust exposure is quite different.

No significant risk levels are always established through animal testing. This is the only way that you can pin an effect to an actual exposure level. Since animal studies are inconclusive and will probably always be because of the number of variables, don't hold your breath waiting for a NSRL.

Also note that wood dust was listed for cancers of the nasal cavity. Again, no conclusive data for human carcinogenicity at other body sites.

It is probably more likely to develop allergic response to the dust of specific species than nasal cancer, but the bottom line is that we should all do what we can to keep our exposures to a minimum - good dust collection system and a respirator go a long way.

Here is a link to the NTP profile on wood dust. The studies considered in their review are listed at the end. http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/eleventh/profiles/s189wood.pdf

BTW: NTP is a part of NIEHS, which is based in the Research Triangle Park.

Pardon the lengthy post.

-G
 

Alan in Little Washington

Alan Schaffter
Corporate Member
Is the danger the wood dust itself? or is it the chemicals used to treat wood? I would think if they are just going off of the the study from 1968, I would like to know if the wood was treated with any chemicals....something to look further into.
The 1968 study (survey) was done of British furniture factory workers. Chemical additives like formaldehyde (formerly a content of plywood adhesive and some insulations, etc.) and the now-banned chemicals originally used to pressure treated lumber, have already been shown to cause cancer.

Also note that wood dust was listed for cancers of the nasal cavity. Again, no conclusive data for human carcinogenicity at other body sites.

It is probably more likely to develop allergic response to the dust of specific species than nasal cancer, but the bottom line is that we should all do what we can to keep our exposures to a minimum - good dust collection system and a respirator go a long way.

Here is a link to the NTP profile on wood dust. The studies considered in their review are listed at the end. http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/eleventh/profiles/s189wood.pdf

BTW: NTP is a part of NIEHS, which is based in the Research Triangle Park.

Pardon the lengthy post.

-G
Gazzer, thanks for the follow-up! Sounds like you may work in a medical or related technical field. I would appreciate any additional insights or refs you might have. It might even be a good idea for me to attempt to establish direct contact with NTP since they are in our back yard.

When I was researching I found an article by a British researcher who has since moved to the US and is now living and working in the Triangle. He has studied mice for many, many years and determined that the nasal cavities of mice are so similar to those of humans, that direct correlations can be made between diseases of the two. Maybe we should all keep mice in our shops, kinda like miners in the early years who carried canaries to warn them of dangerous gases.

In case any of you were wondering, this research is for a project I am working on with Bill Pentz. Like I said, I don't want to be a fear monger, but I want to be on solid ground when I talk about dust hazards or say how BAAADDDD bag-style single-stage dust collectors really are. :eek:
 

Alan in Little Washington

Alan Schaffter
Corporate Member
Thanks Alan. It doesn't take a genius to realize breathing in lots of fine dust is probably bad for your health, whether it's wood dust, drywall dust, asbestos dust, plastic dust or pollen. Most of us are also allergic to certain wood species. It all comes down to quantity/ amount of exposure. The upside of this classification is that it might encourage manufacturers to create tools with better dust collection. Apart from the health factor, it'd be nice if you can leave the shop in the evening without your bode all kwogged ub.

Seeing the actual data would be helpful. I doubt that a few hours of woodworking by a hobbyist raises your risk level significantly, but for someone working in a dusty environment 10 hours per day, it's a different story.
You bring up a good point. However, while further testing and some sort of min or max acceptable exposure levels would be nice, there is still the unknown factor- personal physiology. Who will get cancer and who won't. Some two-pack-a-day smokers seem to live forever while others never make it past middle age.
 

gazzer

New User
Gazzer
Seeing the actual data would be helpful. I doubt that a few hours of woodworking by a hobbyist raises your risk level significantly, but for someone working in a dusty environment 10 hours per day, it's a different story.
Bas,

Right, most of the studies looked at workers with jobs that generated wood dust. Risk of disease is related to level of exposure and the duration of exposure. With wood dust, there is also the physical quality of the dust. Dust from a planer is a lot different from dust from a belt sander.

Alan,

My job involves chemical toxicology issues; however I haven't spent a lot of time looking specifically at wood dust. I would be glad to dig up some of the study publications for you. I always like to refer to the source for insight. The development of regulations to control environmental toxicants is part science and part political.

-g
 

Alan in Little Washington

Alan Schaffter
Corporate Member
Alan,

My job involves chemical toxicology issues; however I haven't spent a lot of time looking specifically at wood dust. I would be glad to dig up some of the study publications for you. I always like to refer to the source for insight.
Thanks!

The development of regulations to control environmental toxicants is part science and part political.

-g
I've heard that claim before. If OSHA and CPSC took hard lines, most of the woodworking machines and dust collection equipment currently on the market would fail abysmally and do great harm to a number woodworking related industries and businesses!
 

Glennbear

Moderator
Glenn
This thread has been rather informative with a wealth of linked sources for those who wish to research further. I tend to agree with Bas that it is a question of exposure levels. I think before we push the panic button regarding wood dust exposure we should keep in mind that CA is rather strict regarding enviormental issues e.g. - the warning labels on so many products we buy that state "CA authorities say that this product may cause cancer" or some such script. Years ago when this warning first surfaced I chuckled at the fact that the product might cause illness in CA but was perfectly safe elsewhere. :gar-La; We all agree that breathing in any foreign material other than air is not a good thing:no:but how we choose to limit our exposure is 100% a personal choice. I am not going to do all of my woodworking via working in a glovebox but I do use a dust collector, air cleaner, face mask etc. depending on the operation. :wsmile:
 

Alan in Little Washington

Alan Schaffter
Corporate Member
This thread has been rather informative with a wealth of linked sources for those who wish to research further. I tend to agree with Bas that it is a question of exposure levels. I think before we push the panic button regarding wood dust exposure we should keep in mind that CA is rather strict regarding environmental issues e.g. - the warning labels on so many products we buy that state "CA authorities say that this product may cause cancer" or some such script. Years ago when this warning first surfaced I chuckled at the fact that the product might cause illness in CA but was perfectly safe elsewhere. :gar-La; We all agree that breathing in any foreign material other than air is not a good thing:no:but how we choose to limit our exposure is 100% a personal choice. I am not going to do all of my woodworking via working in a glovebox but I do use a dust collector, air cleaner, face mask etc. depending on the operation. :wsmile:
I think that is an excellent approach.

I maintain life is full of risks- getting up every morning, driving to the store, etc. We either ignore, accept, plan for, or avoid the risks, depending on our nature. But we all owe it to ourselves (and family) to educate ourselves and take the most informed and appropriate measures for our situation and circumstances, like choosing a Sawstop or not. I realized I was really bad about using my DC for every dust generating machine task because I am basically lazy and found even the minimal time and energy it took to open and close blast gates and turn the DC on and off was at least an inconvenience so I often avoided it. My solution, because I had the resources and skill, was to automate everything. Works for me, but is certainly not for everyone.

The only thing that bothers me about the entire issue is that though everyone's physiology is pretty much the same each can react differently to outside factors and stress, especially if their physiology has already been compromised by something like smoking or emphysema, etc.
 

Bas

Recovering tool addict
Bas
Corporate Member
However, while further testing and some sort of min or max acceptable exposure levels would be nice, there is still the unknown factor- personal physiology. Who will get cancer and who won't. Some two-pack-a-day smokers seem to live forever while others never make it past middle age.
Risk of disease is related to level of exposure and the duration of exposure. With wood dust, there is also the physical quality of the dust. Dust from a planer is a lot different from dust from a belt sander.
Right. Some people fall off a roof and walk away, others slip from a step stool and break their necks. Some people might get sick breathing in wood dust for 4 hours, others may do it for 40 years and not have any problems. But at the end of the day, you have to go with the percentages. That's about the only thing you can do.
 

CrealBilly

Jeff
Senior User
Right. Some people fall off a roof and walk away, others slip from a step stool and break their necks. Some people might get sick breathing in wood dust for 4 hours, others may do it for 40 years and not have any problems. But at the end of the day, you have to go with the percentages. That's about the only thing you can do.
Can I use that line on the Grizzly Girls?
 

novice99

New User
Mike
Alan-
as a practicing Pulmonologist and someone who has learned so much from you on this site, I would be happy to assist you in answering or researching any specific questions you may have for your project.

As a KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) guy, I have listed below a few basic points to consider about any respiratory exposures.

- our bodies are built to live in dirty/dusty environments: the thing on the front of our faces is the first filter and humidifier in a long line to protect the delicate air sacs where we swap good air for bad
- we breathe in 10-14 thousand liters of air every day filled with dust, pollen, fungal spores, bacteria, and viruses and we survive; the filter and defense mechanisms of the respiratory system never sleep
- big particles get stuck in the nose/mouth/windpipe, it's the small particles that can be inhaled deeper into the lungs that we need to worry about: anything larger than 5microns (a micron is 1/1000th of a millimeter) gets filtered out in the upper airway and anything smaller that 1-2microns gets breathe in and out without ever sticking
- hogging out wood with a coarse rasp will generate lots of large particles and very few small ones, whereas using 200grit on your ROS will generate only small particles
- a runny nose or extra mucus in your airways after a dust exposure are good things: mucus lying on top of the airway mucus membranes is designed to capture junk in the air; tiny hairs on the surface of the airway are constantly doing the Wave, sweeping the mucus up towards the back of our throats where we swallow it down into the lethal acid bath in our stomachs
- if your nose or airways are having a bad day (inflamed from a virus, allergy, or exposure) then little things are going to bother them more (causing more irritation, swelling, and mucus production) than when they are having a good day
- chronic low level exposure/irritation tends to be worse than an occasional big exposure, presuming that the airways have a chance to get back to normal (smoking cigarettes every day is worse than having a cigar every once in a while, even though the particle load from a cigar is much higher than from cigarettes)
- some woods are more irritating to the airways than others; see the multiple threads on this subject on the site
- dust = bad :thumbs_do DCs, shop air filters, and masks = good!:thumbs_up:thumbs_up:thumbs_up
 

Alan in Little Washington

Alan Schaffter
Corporate Member
Alan-
as a practicing Pulmonologist and someone who has learned so much from you on this site, I would be happy to assist you in answering or researching any specific questions you may have for your project.
Thanks for the offer!!! You have been added to my list of sources!

The research I have done so far agrees with you, with just some minor differences in particulate size- in simple terms big stuff ( 10 um and larger) gets caught in the nose and upper respiratory system and is expelled as snot :roll:, etc., the really, really, fine (<.3 um) stuff goes in and comes back out, but the stuff in the range of .3 um - 10 um, can make it to the alveoli where they can cause problems.
 
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