Safety News

Wood Dust and Work-Related Asthma

Wood Dust Can Be Harmful

Sander and Wood DustWood dust is created by many types of work tasks and it can be breathed in if it gets into the air. For example, you may breathe in wood dust if you work in a furniture or cabinet-making shop, construction, logging, a sawmill, a paper mill, or a plant that makes plywood, particle board, or fiberboard. Woodshop teachers, artists who work with wood, and floor finishers are other types of workers who are exposed to wood dust.

Wood dust can cause many health and safety problems. Wood dust can irritate skin and eyes and is also listed as a cancer-causing agent on California’s Proposition 65 list. Wood dust may burn or even explode if exposed to heat or flames. Another serious health problem that exposure to wood dust can cause or trigger is work-related asthma. The rest of this booklet will focus on work-related asthma and how to prevent wood dust from worsening or causing it. Home woodworkers can also benefit from this information.

What Is Work-related Asthma?

Asthma is a lung disease. People who have asthma can have:

  • Chest tightness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Cough
  • Wheezing

Asthma that is caused or made worse by conditions or substances at work is called “work-related asthma.” Wood dust can trigger symptoms right away in people who already have asthma. Wood dust can also cause asthma in people who have never had asthma before. Sometimes symptoms can show up within a few months after you are exposed to wood dust, or they may not appear until you have been exposed for years. You may first notice symptoms after you leave work each day. Often the symptoms clear up before you return to work the next day. They usually get worse during the work week and get better or disappear during time off and vacations. Asthma can be disabling and, on rare occasions, fatal.

People with work-related asthma may have severe symptoms if they come in contact with even a small amount of wood dust. See a doctor if you are wheezing, coughing, or have a tight chest or trouble breathing. If you think wood dust or other substances at work are causing your asthma or making it worse, tell your supervisor or union. You may be sent to see a doctor who treats work-related health problems. Tell the doctor what it is at work that causes or adds to your asthma symptoms.

It is important to avoid getting asthma because once you have it, you can have asthma for the rest of your life.

If you work with wood, the key is to keep your exposure to wood dust as low as possible. Finding out early if you have work-related asthma and preventing exposure can help prevent asthma or keep your asthma from getting worse.

Learn more at California Dept of Public Health

Download and read the Informational Booklet Today.