Toxic woods

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Forum topic by ed23 posted 08-22-2020 01:33 AM 547 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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74 posts in 236 days

08-22-2020 01:33 AM

I read somewhere that rosewood is toxic. Like what, if you eat it? Doesnt look bad on this list but oak sure looks bad and I have worked alot with it.

16 replies so far

View johnstoneb's profile


3167 posts in 3177 days

#1 posted 08-22-2020 01:40 AM
Good article on wood toxicity and sensitivity here. Everybody react differently to different woods. Oak might look bad in your link simply because it is much more commonly used than Rosewood.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

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1486 posts in 1183 days

#2 posted 08-22-2020 02:12 AM

If oak was really, really toxic all the 80s and 90s cabinet makers would be long gone.

Most woods(especially dust) are not good for you. Don’t eat or breath it.

View xedos's profile


208 posts in 305 days

#3 posted 08-22-2020 02:29 AM

Folks, some of you really need to look up the terms you bandy about.

While many woods are know irritants and cause reactions and discomfort in some woodworkers , they are far from TOXIC ! That is something else entirely.

Precious few woods are known toxins. Yew is one that comes to mind , but it’s been out of real favor since the invention of the gun.

View pottz's profile


14688 posts in 1989 days

#4 posted 08-22-2020 03:43 AM

Folks, some of you really need to look up the terms you bandy about.

While many woods are know irritants and cause reactions and discomfort in some woodworkers , they are far from TOXIC ! That is something else entirely.

Precious few woods are known toxins. Yew is one that comes to mind , but it’s been out of real favor since the invention of the gun.

- xedos

so your a specialist in wood toxins and what they will do to us,could you elaborate on your knowledge? just curious.if your gonna put people down for their comments you might want give us some education rather than say were uneducated on the subject? a lot of people talk but most cant back it up with factual information.being new here you need to learn how this forum works,we dont like talkers,we like walkers,as in walk the talk.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

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185 posts in 398 days

#5 posted 08-22-2020 03:35 PM

Webster says toxic means, “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation”

Most woods won’t cause death or seriously debilitate you (unless a pallet of them falls on you!). Many cause what I would call “irritation” but don’t put me in immediate danger. Lifelong exposure to dust might be a different story though.

Some woods that have reportedly caused some serious respiratory distress include Cocobolo and other similar Rosewoods, Morado (Pau Ferro), Wenge, Cedar and Yew. I’ve heard of luthiers having to give up their careers because of their sensitivity to different Rosewoods. I’ve read that Wenge dust sprinkled on bodies of water stunned fish swimming below. Cedar dust makes my mouth tingle like crazy if I don’t use a mask and I’d bet that the chemicals in it that help keep it from rotting are doing a number on my nasal passages. Walnut gave me mild cold-like symptoms if I’m not careful and the juglone in the wood is known to be harmful to other plants and horses.

With all we know about keeping healthy through the use of dust collection, respirators and masks, I’d bet that the average woodworker taking precautions should be able to work their craft for a lifetime. I’m pretty careful these days because who needs the aggravation? Do I feel like my life is in danger when I go into my shop or cut food on my Walnut cutting board? Nope.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

View Aj2's profile


3662 posts in 2802 days

#6 posted 08-22-2020 04:06 PM

I think Bubinga is very poisonous. It’s is to me but then most exotics send my immune system into over drive.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some exotics will give a person cancer.
Some of the woods come out of the Amazon jungle where everything fights hard for it’s survival. Trees are living things.

-- Aj

View Mario's profile


204 posts in 4401 days

#7 posted 08-22-2020 04:19 PM

As far as lumber goes, different species affect different people and not all in the same way. And it still depends on what kind of contact you are having with wood, wood dust, saps, wood fungus, etc. Now living trees are something else, and still, there are only two species in this continent that qualify as poisonous, the black poisonwood tree and the manchineel tree, and still not every part of them is harmful. I work from time to time with black poisonwood, which is normally milled in wet mills in order to remove its caustic sap and have never experienced any ill effect from it but have found some other tropical lumbers quite irritating when machined in any way. I would definitely not go around chewing on pieces of lumber, and still, some are used as infusions in traditional medicine….so for the most part you are quite safe when handling lumber with common sense.

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3662 posts in 2802 days

#8 posted 08-22-2020 04:32 PM

The only reason I can think of to use black poisonwood is to make arrows and spears for my enemies.
What do you use it for Mario?
You have interesting projects in your gallery I like it.

-- Aj

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Richard Lee

384 posts in 1780 days

#9 posted 08-22-2020 10:46 PM

Im enjoying my cup of Hemlock Tea as I read this thread.
Some woods are dangerous to some and not to others , just be careful with the ones that are known to cause problems.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


4127 posts in 2499 days

#10 posted 08-22-2020 11:37 PM

+1 prefer the page on Wood Database site for information on HOW wood is toxic:


-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Mario's profile


204 posts in 4401 days

#11 posted 08-23-2020 03:35 AM

Aj2, thanks for the comment, I have used the black poisonwood for furniture, boxes, engraved plates and decorative pieces. I find it a little too hard and heavy but once you start explaining about it coming from a poisonous tree, people just got to buy it…oh well. The wood is quite beautiful, dark brown with golden brown accents, hard to imagine it comes out of a really ugly looking tree.

View therealSteveN's profile


7214 posts in 1579 days

#12 posted 08-23-2020 05:54 PM

I agree that the the Wood Database is a great place to see listed known allergens, and YES a few Toxic woods.

The only thing that I feel is “iffy” is the potency part of it. Potency will be completely individual, so if YOU ended up in the ER, and Bob didn’t why is your score more important?

OP, you will note Rosewood is a known sensitizer or irritant, not listed in any way as toxic.

The thing about allergies, and allergens is anything can cause anyone a problem, it doesn’t have to be a known problem maker. Billions eat Pasta every year, yet some people may have a severe reaction to it. The bigger problem is, it may not occur on the first bite. It could come on years after; years, and years, of eating pasta. Yeah I know it’s a biotch. The good thing is, that usually is only with nuts, primarily peanuts, and crustaceans, usually shrimp. Bad, if you really LOVE either of them though.

Do you stop eating in fear of maybe something causing a problem? Of course not, same as you don’t stop woodworking in fear something may cause a problem. Though I seriously suggest not playing with the known toxic ones.

Now of irritants, if you do become sensitized to any wood. Quit playing with it too. MOST wood sensitivities ONLY bother skin cells. So you get a rash and itchy, but rash and itchy are the first thing you will notice if you do have an allergy to something. Now with allergies some could start out BAM, oooops you just died. Most though start kind of like a warning, they give you some red skin, and a good itch. Saying, DO NOT play with me anymore.

Allergies tend to become more severe, and longer lasting with repeated exposures. Severe allergies often involve the airway. If your airway become compromised, breathing may become difficult, or impossible, depends on severity. We call that Anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis = bad juju.

All of this stuff is written about many a time, and all online. Lemme know if you need guidance, but if you search the words I have used, like allergies, allergens, and anaphylaxis you will find what I typed to be very true.

My chops are 45 years RN, mostly working in the ER. Yep, I’ve seen all of it.

-- Think safe, be safe

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509 posts in 4751 days

#13 posted 08-24-2020 02:12 AM

I have been working with wood and sawdust most of my life. I have been turning wood on the lathe for the past 10 years or so. I never had a problem until the latter part of 2018. I was turning some very small pieces and my skin started to itch then burn. I was turing Paduk, Brazilian Rosewood, and Zebrawood. I had been turning this stuff from the same stock for many years and never had an issue. I put up my tools and called it a day. I went in the house and took a hot shower (mistake #1 because it opens your pores). A few hours later I was as red as a beet and my face, neck, arms and hands were very swollen. My eyelids were so swollen I could barely see. I ended up in the ER that night to get a shot and steroids to stop the agony. 3 weeks go by and I suit up with long sleeves, a neck gator, a face mask, goggles, and even rubber gloves so I could go out any finish the project. 3-4 minutes later I threw the project in the trash, placed my clothes in the washer, and this time took a barely warm shower. I swelled up but not nearly like the first time. I no longer turn or work with exotic woods of any sort. Different woods can effect people in various ways and that can change over time as well.

-- NorthWoodsMan

View therealSteveN's profile


7214 posts in 1579 days

#14 posted 08-24-2020 06:51 AM

You describe what I have heard many before you tell me, this is a normal situation surrounding a sensitivity. Had you not said, no more, it probably would only have gotten worse. Some do have luck “covering up” and not allowing dust to touch their skin, but most are like you, just being around it sets many off.

Wood isn’t the only thing this can happen with, virtually any sensitizer. I think with woods I have seen, and heard more about oily imports being the major problem. Something from South America almost kills tham, yet an Oak from down the street isn’t a problem. Fortunate you are able to keep woodworking.

-- Think safe, be safe

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2642 posts in 552 days

#15 posted 08-24-2020 09:21 AM

A little late to the convo, but I have worked with blackpoisonwood alot, aka chechen, and never had an issue. From my understanding, it is the sap, bark and leaves that are poisonous. Once the wood itself has been cured, it is not “poisonous,” although the dust may still be an irritant.

-- WWBBJ: It is better to be interesting and wrong, than boring and right.

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