Whether you are a carpenter and craftsman by trade or hobbyist woodworker, wood dust can be inevitable. Engrained in every corner of the woodshop, settled into the rivets on your work bench and a layer dusting the floor, its presence is known and often forgotten. One place wood dust should not end up is your lungs. The State of California added wood dust to its Proposition 65 warnings, as wood dust inhalation and repeat exposure can cause cancer to the nose, throat, and sinuses. Our premium hardwood products now require this warning, as drilling, sawing, sanding, and machining any wood product can create wood dust.
Should I be worried about wood dust?
You might notice that we, like others in our industry, have added a warning to our product pages, so we want to break it down for you, as these warnings oftentimes cause people think that there are harmful chemicals added to products and start to worry. We are here to tell you that Forest 2 Home hardwood products are 100 percent natural and have never been and never will be treated with any harmful chemicals and this warning is solely related to wood dust as a byproduct. This is what the warning looks like that you see on our website and others in the industry who supply tools and products to woodworkers, crafter, DIYers, and beyond:
⚠️ WARNING: Drilling, sawing, sanding or machining wood products can expose you to wood dust, a substance known to the State of California to cause cancer. Avoid inhaling wood dust or use a dust mask or other safeguards for personal protection. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/wood.
What is wood dust?
Wood dust is generated when machines or tools are used to chip, saw, drill, mill, plane, route, sand or turn wood. As the by-product of all of these activities, wood dust is prevalent in every workshop, but regular exposure to significant amounts of wood dust is a concern. Wood dust is airborne, and though it may settle in the crevices of the woodshop, it is easily made airborne again, leading to inhalation. The state of California has classified wood dust as a hazardous chemical through Proposition 65.
What is Proposition 65?
Proposition 65 is led by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazzard Assessment and is a legal requirement for California businesses, and businesses who serve California residents, to provide warnings when their product aids in significant exposure to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. The list allows for Californians, and all other buyers, to make informed decisions about their exposure to significant chemicals. Since it was first published in 1987, the list has grown to include approximately 900 chemicals, now including wood dust.
Reducing your exposure to wood dust
While wood dust exposure may seem inevitable, there are ways to take precaution against inhalation and better your clean air access, including but not limited to:
- Working outside, whenever possible, is a great way to mitigate wood dust inhalation
- When sanding or creating fine wood dust, that is especially easily made airborne, always wear a dust mask that fits snugly
- For woodshops, garages and wherever you work indoors, install a dust-collection or air-filtration system to capture and remove wood dust
- Lessen airborne particles by using a saw hood or sanding table that has suction to pull wood dust downward
- Be especially cautious when working with chemically treated wood, wood that is glued, laminated or wood with synthetic finishes. All of these additional elements introduce further toxins into particles
- Avoid chemically treated wood at all costs. Be sure places that your source your materials do not use chemicals on their lumber (Forest 2 Home lumber never has and never will be chemically treated)
Wood dust removal
Outside of the proper precautions, what can be done to eliminate the wood dust that escapes into your woodshop and working environment? Be sure to implement cleaning methods that do not reintroduce particles into the air, such as:
- Vacuuming with high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filter or using a shop vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, whenever possible
- Wiping down surfaces with a wet rag
- Bagging and sealing wood dust from vacuums and other dust extraction systems. When bagging, be sure to wear a secure mask to avoid inhalation if particles become airborne
- Change your clothes before entering your home or other areas. Leaving wood dust on your body following woodshop projects may not seem like a significant concern but the small particulates that have embedded into your clothes are now at close proximity for inhalation
Proper wood dust precaution is proper woodshop safety. While the effects and impact of wood dust may not seem like an imminent threat, its danger is just as significant as the misuse of woodshop tools and the resulting injury. Incorporate all woodshop safety practices into your woodworking to guarantee a safe and healthy experience.