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paul wheaton
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Posts: 22494
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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What an amazing list of information on the toxicity of wood!

http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity

The list is so thorough, there was a lot of stuff on the list I had never even heard of. For a few interesting highlights:

The worst (four stars):

  • western red cedar
  • yew


  • worrisome (three stars):
  • some other cedars
  • black locust
  • chestnut
  • maple
  • juniper





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    Matu Collins
    Posts: 1976
    Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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    This is very interesting!

    Black cherry causes "giddiness"?!
     
    Craig Dobbson
    master steward
    Posts: 1998
    Location: Maine (zone 5)
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    Well I think this confirms the fact that we have all been suppressing for a long time. It's time we all just admit it. Say it with me now


    "Trees are irritating"


    LOL
     
    Su Ba
    pollinator
    Posts: 988
    Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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    On my! Wood is toxic! Quick, let's all run out and buy plastic and Formica!!! Does this mean that my parents were right for throwing all their old wooden furniture away and replacing it with Formica and chrome back in the 50's? Oh no, I'm never gonna hear the end of this. Never. So I had better make sure I don't let my mother know about this discussion.

    Just goes to show you that you can't get away from everything "toxic". I wonder what my au natural vegan friends will think about this. They go to extremes not only to eliminate every animal product from their lives, but every possibly toxic item too. Wait until I show them the list.

    Ok, I'm being "bad". I know. But come on, it's kind of fun to tease them since they constantly harangue me for using gasoline, laundry detergent, toothpaste, plastic bags, etc.

    On the serious side now, the list is interesting. We have some trees here in Hawaii that can cause some woodworkers to break out in skin rashes. Not everyone reacts, though. But it's a good incentive to wear a good dust mask, goggles, and take a shower as soon as your done sawing, sanding, or planing.
     
    Amedean Messan
    pollinator
    Posts: 928
    Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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    Thanks for the link.
     
    Ryan Herring
    Posts: 10
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    Interesting.

    Sassafras is down as poisonous.
    Didn't they try to use that as a cure for syphilis?!
     
    Nick Herzing
    Posts: 13
    Location: Battle Creek, MI
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    Well now I am all confused. If this list for just wood dust (like from sanding), or for the wood themselves. I have never heard of ash, maple, or birch (just a few that caught my eye) having ANY health concerns when used for, say, wooden cooking utensils. Is this list overprotective or am I ignorant of the dangers of wood?
     
    Ryan Herring
    Posts: 10
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    @Nick
    It is about sensitivity to the different species. I have never heard of anyone who has a problem with maple, ash, oak..etc. either. My body doesn't like to be exposed to black walnut.
    I work with one guy who is sensitive to Teak and Spanish Cedar. He is one guy out of fifteen, all of the rest have no problem with any of the species that we use.
     
    Len Ovens
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    Location: Vancouver Island
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    Nick Herzing wrote:Well now I am all confused. If this list for just wood dust (like from sanding), or for the wood themselves. I have never heard of ash, maple, or birch (just a few that caught my eye) having ANY health concerns when used for, say, wooden cooking utensils. Is this list overprotective or am I ignorant of the dangers of wood?


    It would suggest to me that these trees should not be eaten One of the reasons cedar lasts so long is because it is toxic... on the other hand some friends lived in a complex that tried cedar mulch as a ground liner in a play area... until the children all came home with red, swollen feet and they removed it. Trees create toxins so bugs won't eat them. What is interesting is that cedar leaves (which still don't taste good) are ok to eat. Dust of any kind, toxic or not, is not good to breath anyway. Allergies are by definition "unnatural" sensitivities to things and so the odd person who gets red from touching a kind of wood does not make that wood bad. Wood does off gas and some people are more sensitive to some woods than others (pine gets a lot of people).

    So, wood used in the round is most healthy. The next best is split wood. Then sawn wood. Finally sanded wood. Generally they all get sealed with handling as our skin oils coat the outside and soak in. Someone long ago figured out this could be sped up by oiling the wood as we still do today.

    There are parts of trees that have been traditionally used for eating and clothing. Most often the inner bark (pine for example) might be eaten. The northwest people used the inner bark from cedar trees to make thread/cord/yarn which they made clothing and blankets with. This part of the tree seems to be less toxic. That is why wood is debarked before drying, because the bark will start and harbour rot. (Bark also collects water)

    The toxicity of the wood is what makes the tree useful to us. It is what makes the tree able to grow tall and what gives the wood strength for us to build with. The tree is it's own building system made of many parts. It is also a part of the local plant and animal systems and is designed to work within that framework. It is also designed to release these toxins relatively quickly after it falls so it can rot. Even cedar which in air can keep it's toxic qualities for years will rot quicker if left where it falls. We interrupt a trees designed purpose and try to keep it in the state that is most useful to us for as long as possible. Most of us don't think in these terms because the tree cooperates so well and easily. Nature is never in a hurry.
     
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