Dust and the Woodworker
Examining the respiratory hazards
Synopsis: What woodworker doesn’t know the pleasure of wiping a delicate film of very fine dust off a well-waxed jointer bed? Kirk Kundtz, an internist and active woodworker, loves the feel of sawdust in any form, but his concerns about how it irritates the eyes and lungs led him to research its effects on the respiratory system. Here, he talks about how much has to be inhaled to be dangerous, explains the respiratory system, and how dust affects the lungs. He addresses woods that contain toxins, such as in red cedar. Side information by Theodore J. Fink, also an internist and also a woodworker, discusses how to decrease dust production, capture it, and protect your body from it with masks and goggles.
What serious woodworker doesn’t know the pleasure of wiping a delicate film of very fine dust off a well-waxed jointer bed? I like reaching into a tablesaw base and spilling out arm loads of wood dust onto my knees and the surrounding floor. In fact, I don’t mind dust in my hair, in my beard and in my pockets. And I’ve not only come to love the feel and sight of wood dust, but the satisfying aroma as well. I was first tempted to start woodworking when my best friend built a cedar porch swing for me-the air in his shop was filled with the rich scent of the wood. Since then, I’ve built my own shop and filled the air with dust from a dozen different woods, including sassafras, walnut, redwood, mahogany, teak, cherry, maple, oak and poplar.
Yes, the woodworker in me enjoys wood dust, but the doctor in me is suspicious because the dust so often irritates my eyes and lungs. My concerns led me to the hospital library to…