The Dangers of Wood Dust

wood dustWoodworking safety is a necessity if you want to stay healthy long enough to finish all your projects. Unfortunately, you may not even understand that the biggest woodworking danger is almost entirely invisible: wood dust.

Wood dust can be a surprisingly dangerous item for your health. And it’s not the large chips or visible sawdust that does the damage: it’s the small, almost invisible, particles that floats through the air as you cut.

These dangerous particles are often no more than 2-10 microns wide, yet they can still cause a wide variety of health issues including:

  • Decreased Lung Strength
  • Skin Irritation
  • Runny Nose
  • Cough
  • Inflammation
  • Vomiting
  • Cancer

The latter two problems are much rarer, though some trees, such as the yew, are actually toxic and can cause serious health problems.

How to Stay Safe

The easiest way to stay safe from wood dust is to wear a dust mask or respirator. These items fit over your face and help keep your lungs safe from wood dust. The various types of respirators on the market include:

  • Disposable Dust Masks
  • Half-Face Respirators
  • Full-Face Respirators
  • Powered Respirators

Each of these have their positives and negatives. For example, disposable dust masks are the cheapest, yet least effective. Powered respirators are the most effective, yet most expensive.

Another simple way to avoid wood dust is to vacuum your shop every time you’re done working. Make sure to choose a vacuum with a high CFM rating, an accessory kit, and an automatic switch that turns on whenever you run a specific power tool.