Wood Dust and Cancer Risks


Woodworkers take note! You might want to reconsider casually tossing aside your dust mask during woodcutting chores. And dust-filter systems on your power tools are bringing bigger benefits than a just tidy work area. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wood dust has been named one of 10 new carcinogens.

            First listed in Tenth Report on Carcinogens: “Wood dust is known to be a human carcinogen, based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans. An association between wood-dust exposure and cancer of the nose has been observed in many case reports, cohort studies, and case-control studies that specifically addressed nasal cancer. Strong and consistent associations with cancer of the nasal cavities and paranasal sinuses were observed both in people whose occupations are associated with wood-dust exposure and in studies that directly estimated wood-dust exposure.”

“Risks were highest for adenocarcinoma, particularly among European populations. Studies of U.S. populations showed similar significant positive associations. A pooled analysis of 12 case-control studies showed that the estimated relative risk of adenocarcinoma was very high among men with the greatest exposure. The association between wood-dust exposure and elevated nasal cancer risk in a large number of independent studies and with many different occupations in many countries strongly supports the conclusion that the increased risk is caused by wood dust rather than by simultaneous exposure(s) to other substances, such as formaldehyde or wood preservatives. Other types of nasal cancer (squamous-cell carcinoma of the nasal cavity) and cancer at other sites, including cancer of nasopharynx and larynx and Hodgkin’s disease, have been associated with exposure to wood dust in several epidemiological studies.”

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