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Are you Allergic to any Woods?

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Are You Allergic to wood?

  • Yes, Many types.

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  • Some.

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  • No problem with any wood.

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CHJ

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As I am suffering at the moment from confirming a least one Wood type that I am violently allergic to and in view of the number of New Woodworkers that are frequenting the forum I thought it might be a good time to get some sort of indication as to how many other people on the forum have problems; and emphasize any known common woods that they may build up a reaction to, and encourage them to take extra care when handling.

I have known for some years that I was allergic to certain yeasts carried on some hardwoods but have obviously become very sensitized to specific hardwoods for some reason.
I personally use dust extraction and full air fed face mask but still cannot live with the dust from IROKO for sure.

These are small samples of skin after 24hrs, when it had calmed down and after extensive treatment with Anti-Histamines and Hydro-Cortisone, the reaction manifested itself within 3 hrs of working Iroko despite showering immediately afterwards and was in the form of large areas of Hives like blistering (3mm proud over 1/3 of my upper body with eyelids swollen until nearly closed.) and a totally sleepless night from extreme itching and soreness. The overall picture is not fit for prime time viewing.

People with an allergy.
Woods List. (start with list from Keith Rowley's book)

Iroko = 4
Makor
Cocobolo
Mansonia
Padauk
Guare
Partridge Wood
 

Taffy Turner

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I am allergic to some woods, but the severity varies.

Iroko is top of the list, producing a skin rash, itchy + swollen eyes, asthma etc. We have an Iroko gate, which I sanded usinga belt sander, and it damn nearly killed me, even though I was wearing a dust mask.

Some other exotics produce similar symptoms to a greater or lesser extent, but to be honest I couldn't tell you which, as I have a pile of exotic turning blanks with no names on them (they were cheap!!), so even the ones that do make me itchy, I can't tell what they are!

Since Christmas I have done nearly all my turning wearing a Trend Airshield, which is excellent for preventing the dust getting to the face and and hence the eyes and nose, but obviously doesn't stop the itchy arms.

To date I have not had any problems with any domestic timbers, although I am always particularly wary of spalted beech, and take extra precautions, such as showering immediately after working with it.

Regards
Gary
 
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Yep, iroko does it for me as well!
I used it for years with no problems, but I spent two months in an old boat shed with no ventlation or extraction making deck hatches and I got extremely sensitised, swollen glands, eyes closed, rashes, itching everywhere...
Now I can walk into a room that has had iroko machinedor sanded in it and I get symptoms kicking in almost immediately.

Andy
 

Chris Knight

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Iroko is my problem wood, producing very dry skin and split finger ends in about a day. Other woods do the same but much more slowly and if I use a barrier cream, I have no problems, even with Iroko.

I am tending to use a dust mask much more than I used to as my nose gets blocked more quickly these days when woodworking and there is sometimes tightess in my chest (yes I know - but there may be more than one horse in the stable!)
 

CHJ

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Taffy Turner":2pn98exp said:
...snip..Since Christmas I have done nearly all my turning wearing a Trend Airshield, which is excellent for preventing the dust getting to the face and and hence the eyes and nose, but obviously doesn't stop the itchy arms....snip...
Hi GaryI also use a Trend mask that is regularly 'housecleaned' so as not to retain problem dust, on the day in question I also had a long sleeved shirt on with tight cuffs and closed neck. It still got into my system though. I dread to think what would have been the result if I had breathed the dust into my lungs any quantity.
 

Midnight

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I donno about the exotics that you've mentioned Chas (cos I hinna worked with em) but that cheap cr@p Brasil ply that B&Q sell triggers a reaction with my synuses and wreaks havoc with swmbo's asthema.. While I'd no option but to use it for early projects, thesedays ya couldn't pay me to touch it...
 

wizer

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i've worked with MDF, Ply, Pine, Chipboard and Beech

No obvious reactions so far
 

Philly

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I've used exotics and some of those "get a bit itchy", but I do try and be sensible with dust extraction, masks, fine dust filter, etc. The worst for me is MDF-'orrible stuff, gets everywhere. Takes me weeks to vaccuum it all up and really get up my nose. Urgh! :x
I think how much you are exposed to a timber has a great deal to do with alergies-I use a different timber for each project which seems to help.
Hope this is vaguely helpful,
Philly :D
 

cambournepete

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MDF is just plain horrible and gets right up your nose if you're not careful, but the worst I have found are Banksia nuts - really fine horibble dust that makes my skin itch badly. Hate the things.
 

CHJ

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For the benefit of those new to wood and to whom I cannot stress how important I feel about you protecting yourselves as much as possible from becoming sensitized to certain woods.

Fourth day down the line from exposure to Iroko, with high dosage of Anti-Histamines and Cortisone.

1. Oedema of the eyelids and face retreating slowly, being replaced with cracked skin around the eyes nose and mouth.

(I was wearing a full airfed mask with no sign whatsoever of internal contaminate when it was stripped for inspection and clean)

2. Body rash now looks more like Nettle Rash and although less irritable with application of strong cortisone has doubled in area on upper body.

(Only the area around my Neck has a common connection with dust exposure and rash spread)

How do I feel? In two words, Bl***y Awful!!

Sorry if this creates a picture some of you would rather not envision but believe me you do not want to go there if you can prevent it.

Wear the maximum protection possible and extract as much as possible of the dust when handling suspect woods even if you do not currently feel any ill effects.
 

GCR

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Though I try very hard to use dust extraction/wear breathing mask I still find Teak dust irritable, also cheap ply (some of which has a distinct peppery smell). I try to do sanding outside if at all possible. I get the feeling that I am becoming more susceptible to all wood dusts as I get older, possibly because I did not bother about breathing protection in my mis-spent youth. In the light of which I now use a breathing mask much of the time. Not really had any skin rashes etc yet.....

Bob
 
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No. Well none I have tried which are:
Oak (English and American)
Ash
Cedar
Maple
Iroko
Mahogany (several african varieties + brazillian)
Pine (of course!!)
MDF
Various Ply

Becoming allergic to the stupid price of Oak of late though :(
 

Chris Knight

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Chas,
It sounds as though you have been very badly affected and you are obviously feeling very rough. I guess the obvious thing to say is don't touch Iroko again, it could be worse next time.

Perhaps less obviously, a visit to an allergy specialist might be a good idea to see if there is anything you can or need to do as a result of this episode. Just maybe there is a way of de-sensitizing you.
 

RogerS

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This is very timely as SWMBO is talking about some outdoor furniture and Iroko was on my list of possibles.

Is it possible that someone could send me a small offcut so I can check my sensitivity towards it? I would be very grateful.

I have noticed that when I've been woodworking (using ordinary builders merchants softwood) that I develop splits down the skin of my fingers around the tops of my thumbs. I'd put this down to just dry skin etc but now you've got me thinking...
 

trevtheturner

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Chas,

Sorry to hear of your problems - sounds really awful. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Roger,

I have experienced similar skin problems to my hands in the past but, thanks to advice from Chris (waterhead 37), I now use a barrier cream before starting in the workshop. Works a treat and no more problems.

Cheers,

Trev.
 

Dewy

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This topic reminds me of my father in law who was a chippie at one of the national companies making concrete garages.
He had never had any problems with his health then developed chronic asthma and bronchitis.
He blames Western Red Cedar which was being used for the better quality garage doors because of its resistance to rot.
He used to say that WCR trees had fallen thousands of years before and were still in good condition as timber.
If they resisted rot that well, what was happening to all the wood dust he had breathed in?
It would not rot in his lungs the same as fallen trees didn't rot.
This was over 30 years ago when dusk masks were seldom provided at work and seldom used when they were provided.
He managed to get sent to a chest hospital to be tested for wood allergies.
At that time they only tested for wood and not any specific variety.
He suffered for many years while needing a great many prescribed medicines to try to help him breathe freely.
Eventually a mild heart attack killed him because his system was so badly weakened by the chest problems that he couldn't recover.
It is now known that all wood dust is carcegenic with some hard woods being worse than others while any wood dust can cause asthma etc.
Since then I have had a great respect for wood dust and always ty to wear a mask.
 

DaveL

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Roger Sinden":3u5dx4gx said:
This is very timely as SWMBO is talking about some outdoor furniture and Iroko was on my list of possibles.

Is it possible that someone could send me a small offcut so I can check my sensitivity towards it? I would be very grateful.
Roger,

I will sort though my box of scraps from making the folding chairs and post you a couple of small bits.
 

CHJ

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trevtheturner":myber3la said:
Chas,

Sorry to hear of your problems - sounds really awful. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Roger,

I have experienced similar skin problems to my hands in the past but, thanks to advice from Chris (waterhead 37), I now use a barrier cream before starting in the workshop. Works a treat and no more problems.

Cheers,

Trev.
Hi Trevor It gets a little better each day thanks, just hope it clears up before the cortisone removes all my skin. Felt good enough today to do a bit of wood surfing at Ockenden's and returned via Newtown, Aberystwyth, Devils Bridge and mountain rd to Elan, Sea air + icecream then a spell watching 6 Red Kites do their thing up in the hills made me forget all about it till I got back a few minutes ago and had to submit myself to an AF service.

I think I will add a barrier cream to my armament as a 'just in case' another wood tries to join the Iroko.
 

CHJ

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waterhead37":1ybbvphn said:
Chas,
It sounds as though you have been very badly affected and you are obviously feeling very rough. I guess the obvious thing to say is don't touch Iroko again, it could be worse next time.
To say that I will avoid it is an understatement:!::!:

We had a day out in Somerset last Tuesday, LOML has little sympathy, (medication in the boot with an ice pack as the fridge would not fit) and was 'forced' to call in at Yandles :whistle: to pick up some wood on the way to Yeovil.
First rack in the entrance to the shed was stacked high with Iroko billets. LOML went ballistic and the air was blue every time I stepped anywhere near it.

waterhead37":1ybbvphn said:
Perhaps less obviously, a visit to an allergy specialist might be a good idea to see if there is anything you can or need to do as a result of this episode. Just maybe there is a way of de-sensitizing you.
I know that I am allergic to certain yeasts. This came to light some years ago when finances dictated that the use of chipboard and home brewing were the order of the day. I am still sensitive to chipboard dust, usually the coated/veneered types, apparently they can have a yeast culture in the pulp vats that is either not killed off in the forming process or some sort of OO-nasty is left behind. Beer Yeast does not seem a problem anymore judging by the quantity of unfiltered Wheat Beer and Hellis that I consume when in Germany.
 

RogerS

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Thanks, daveL.

Trevor..what barrier cream do you use? I've got some Screfix cream but it seemed quite oily and while I use it for general DIY, I was concerned that some of the oil might get transferred to the wood I was working on

Roger
 
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