Exposure to Wood Dust and Risk of Lung Cancer

Materials that cause cancers are called carcinogens.

It is known that some types of woods, mostly hardwood dust was earlier associated with causing nasal cancer but not necessarily lung cancer.

The amounts of dust per area of space as well are a factor that determines the risk level of cancer or other diseases.

In 1995, the International Agency on Research on Cancer, (IARC) discovered that wood dust is a Group 1 human carcinogen.

Earlier studies did not conclude that there are high risks of wood dust causing lung cancers.

But time and evidence of longer exposures would prove that it can have a significant impact.

Previous studies concluded that the evidence for wood dust causing lung cancers was weak or at least not clear.

However, in an Environmental Journal published in 2015, by Erick V, et al, it was concluded that there was “evidence of increased risk of lung cancer among workers with substantial cumulative exposure to wood dust.”

Suggestion Hazard Control in Woodworking

Even though available information early on was not consistent with possible lung cancer link with wood dust, it is known to cause other common problems.

Some protective and preventative measures are designed to reduce the risk of lung cancer disease and other health problems associated with woodworking as it is discussed in this comprehensive Teds woodworking review.

More than the lung cancers scare; the age-long warning that “prevention is better than cure” should be taken seriously.

Another way of saying it is a stitch in time saves nine.

A safe method of getting the dust under control without these particles flying about freely is a mechanism using Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV).

The LEV mechanism works when they are very close to the emission source.

moving table

This is a model of a basic LEV compatible adjustable workbench.

Having the LEV is not enough to give protection alone but using it effectively with added adjustments. In other words, knowing how to use it with other precautionary measures will help.

An image of the LEV system in action for circular saw bench.

Using dust masks as well are a good and cheaper way of preventing the inhalation of dust particles.

This could work well by reducing the volume of exposure, but smaller particles could still linger as tiny suspensions in the air.

Dust masks are a must-have for people who have allergic reactions to dust coming into the workshop.

There are various types of masks here but these activated carbon dustproof masks are great and effective for a woodworking workshop.

Above: Activated carbon dustproof, dust mask with a filter against allergies.

An additional line of defense is using a shop vacuum to suck up smaller dust particles from the air.

For even more protection, sawdust collector systems are available at some cost though.

These are similar to the Local exhaust ventilation machine.

There are also DIY dust collector systems you could afford if you want to give that a try. There are ready instructions for making one of these if you are a handy person.

Above is a sample compact dust collector just like your vacuum cleaner. Instructions for making one like this can be found at instructables.


Professionals have determined that prolonged exposure of wood dust could lead to lung cancer.

Other concerns as skin irritation, allergies, and dryness of throat can be observed if you are exposed to wood dust.

The best is to get the least protection before entering a woodworking shop.

Written by Lloyd Gomez