Toxic Wood

A Guide To Toxic Woods

Important information on potentially toxic woods that all woodworkers should know, the following information is reprinted from data provided by Roy Banner, a woodturner from Torrance, California who almost lost his life in 1989 to anaphylactic shock after turning pieces of exotic wood.

After each wood name comes categories between slashes / /:

Explanation

  • Class: Woods are classified as either an irritant which causes a reaction fairly rapidly after exposure and will cause a similar reaction repeatedly or a sensitizer which may have a latency period of hours or months and may require repeated handling before a reaction occurs. Sensitizers are the more severe because once you’re sensitized, you’re sensitized for life and the reactions get more serious.
  • Reaction Category:
    • Eye and Skin irritation (hives, itching, redness).
    • Respiratory problems.
    • Nausea headache, or general malaise, possibly even liver or kidney malfunction.
    • Cancer of nose and sinus. Statistics show that woodworkers have a 40% greater chance of nasal cancer than the general population, but the majority of statistics on nasal cancer are based on data from 1920-1960 when the furniture industry became highly mechanized with little or no dust control methods.
  • Potency: Small, Great, Extreme. This is the potential of the wood or sawdust doing harm and would vary with the individual i.e., those who are allergy prone must use extreme caution when working with wood classed as extremely potent.
  • Source: Dust or Wood or both
  • Incidence: Unknown, Rare or Uncommon. 

Note that this data does not take into consideration Man’s penchant for trying to poison himself by using formaldehyde in plywood, treated woods, sodium compounds in white pine to prevent blue stain, etc.

List of Wood

  • Afromosia: irritant/eye & skin, respiratory/great/dust/rare
  • Alder: irritant/eye & skin, respiratory
  • Angelico: irritant/eye & skin, respiratory/great/dust
  • Arborvitae: irritant/respiratory
  • Ash: irritant/respiratory
  • Baldcypress: sensitizer/respiratory/small/dust/rare
  • Balsam fir: sensitizer/eye & skin/small/dust/rare
  • Beech: sensitizer/respiratory/great/dust/rare
  • Birch: sensitizer/respiratory, nausea/great/dust, wood/rare
  • Black locust: irritant/nausea/great/rare
  • Blackwood: sensitizer/eye & skin/great/dust, wood/common
  • Boxwood: sensitizer/respiratory/small/dust, wood/rare
  • Cashew: sensitizer/eye & skin/great/dust, wood/rare
  • Chechem: irritant/respiratory, eye & skin/great/dust, wood/unknown
  • Cocobolo: irritant/respiratory, eye & skin/great/dust, wood/common
  • Dahoma: sensitizer/respiratory/great/dust/common
  • Ebony: irritant, sensitizer/respiratory, eye & skin/great/dust, wood/common
  • Elm: sensitizer/eye & skin/small/dust/rare
  • Fir: irritant/eye & skin/small/rare
  • Goncolo alves: sensitizer/eye & skin/small/dust, wood/rare
  • Greenheart: sensitizer/respiratory, eye & skin/extreme/dust, wood/common
  • Guarea: sensitizer/eye & skin/extreme/dust/rare
  • Hemlock: nasal cancer/great/dust/rare
  • Ipe: irritant/respiratory, eye & skin
  • Iroko: irritant/respiratory, eye & skin/extreme/dust, wood/common
  • Katon: irritant/respiratory
  • Kingwood: irritant/eye & skin
  • Mahogany, American: sensitizer/respiratory, eye & skin/small/dust/rare
  • Mahogany, African: sensitizer/respiratory/great/dust/rare
  • Makore: irritant/respiratory, eye & skin
  • Mansonia: irritant/respiratory, eye & skin/extreme/dust, wood/common
  • Manzinilla: irritant/respiratory/dust/rare
  • Maple: sensitizer/respiratory/great/dust, wood/rare
  • Mimosa: irritant/nasal/extreme/dust, wood/common
  • Myrtle: sensitizer/respiratory/great/dust, wood/common
  • Oak, red: nasal/great/dust/rare
  • Obeche: sensitizer/respiratory, eye & skin/great/dust/common
  • Olivewood: sensitizer/respiratory, eye & skin/great/dust, wood/common
  • Opepe: sensitizer/respiratory/small/dust/rare
  • Orangewood: respiratory/rare
  • Padauk: irritant/respiratory, eye & skin, nausea/extreme/dust, wood/common
  • Pau ferro: sensitizer/eye & skin/small/dust, wood/rare
  • Peroba rose: sensitizer/respiratory/great/dust, wood/common
  • Peroba white: sensitizer/respiratory, eye & skin
  • Purpleheart: sensitizer/eye & skin, nausea/small/dust, wood/rare
  • Quebracho: nasal cancer/great/dust/rare
  • Ramin: irritant/respiratory, eye & skin/small/dust/rare
  • Redwood: sensitizer/respiratory, nasal cancer/small/dust/rare
  • Rosewood(s): irritant, sensitizer/respiratory, eye & skin/extreme/dust, wood/common
  • Satinwood: irritant/respiratory, eye & skin/extreme/dust, wood/common
  • Sassafras: sensitizer/respiratory, nausea, nasal cancer/small/dust, wood/rare
  • Sequoia: irritant/respiratory, nasal cancer/small/dust, wood/rare
  • Snakewood: irritant/respiratory/great/dust, wood/rare
  • Spruce: sensitizer/respiratory/small/dust, wood/rare
  • Stavewood: irritant/respiratory
  • Sucupira: irritant/respiratory
  • Teak: sensitizer/eye & skin/extreme/dust/common
  • Walnut, black: sensitizer/eye & skin/great/leaves & bark/unknown
  • Wenge: sensitizer/respiratory, eye & skin/great/dust/common
  • Willow: sensitizer/nasal cancer/great/dust/unknown
  • W. redcedar: sensitizer/respiratory, nasal cancer/great/dust/common
  • Yew, Europe: irritant/eye & skin/great/dust/common
  • Zebrawood: sensitizer/eye & skin/great/dust/rare