Woodworking is an incredibly impressive art form and something I wish I was able to do even remotely close to decent. My grandpa was an incredible woodcarver and I used to love going over to his house as a kid and looking at the countless pieces. The old wooden ship replicas were my favorite. The details were so intricate and accurate that I would spend hours looking them over. I also remember his work shop distinctly, the tools, the smell of saw dust, the latest project on the work bench; it was really a cool
Recently, woodworking has been a topic of conversation here at RZ and it’s given me a chance to do some further research. Something important that I found, and the topic of this post, is the health risks associated with saw dust.
The most common way that wood dust affects a woodworker is by being an irritant to our eyes and our lungs typically resulting in itching, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, rashes, and asthma-like breathing problems. Long-term damage can be a bit more dramatic. What a woodworker needs to be concerned about is what’s called coarse inhalable particles (ranging in size from 2-10 microns). These tiny bits of sawdust hang around even after the tools have stopped running. The particles get inhaled and cause
very small wounds and scarring to our lungs: each time this happens, it causes a very small amount of irreversible damage. The immediate effect is unnoticeable, but over long periods of time, this can result in significantly decreased lung capacity, and a number of other health issues.
OSHA states, “Exposure to wood dust has long been associated with a variety of adverse health effects, including dermatitis, allergic respiratory effects, mucosal and nonallergic respiratory effects, and cancer. Contact with the irritant compounds in wood sap can cause dermatitis and other allergic reactions. The respiratory effects of wood dust exposure include asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and chronic bronchitis.”
The skin and respiratory system can become sensitized to wood dust. When this happens, we can suffer severe allergic reactions (such as asthma or dermatitis) after repeated exposure to dust. Certain species of hardwood—such as oak, mahogany, beech, walnut, birch, elm, and ash— have been reported to cause nasal cancer in woodworkers. This is particularly true when exposures are high.
Luckily, there are various ways to limit the amount of dust created while woodworking. Having local exhaust ventilation (LEV) will remove dust at its source. I won’t go into details about LEV’s, however OSHA has a great page on their website about LEV’s and controlling wood dust.
Perhaps the best way to prevent the inhalation of dust is to use a dust mask. Not just any old dust mask either. You want your woodworking mask to have the same level of quality and craftsmanship that you put into your work. You want something that will seal, be comfortable, and function properly. The RZ Mask does just this along with several other unique features that make it a fantastic woodworking mask.
A few of these unique features include, one-way exhaust valves, Hepa filters, and washable mesh or neoprene. The one-way exhaust valves allow exhaled air to escape the mask. This keeps the inside dry and comfortable while also preventing fogging of safety glasses. The Hepa filters allow for effortless breathability and significantly add to the comfort of the mask. The mesh and neoprene masks that we offer give woodworkers two different options of material to house their filter. The neoprene is fantastic in cold weather keeping skin nice and warm. The mesh material is great in heat because of it allows for increased airflow and the skin gets to breathe and stay cool.
With all this said, if you’re a woodworker I hope that you take proper safety precautions and keep dust out of your lungs. We are proud to provide a product that keeps you happy, healthy and carving longer.