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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Anyone know more about wood dust collection vs. illness?

I have been puttng a home shop together and was getting into dust collection when I found many negative articles on the subject. The more I dug the worse it got. In particular after reading Bill Pentz's website regarding dust collection I got really concerned that I'll never be able to make a basement wood shop safe for my family.

I did a quick search on this site about wood dust and health and found a thread from earlier this year about walnut dust causing someone's son to go into a severe allergic reaction. I looked around online and found that walnut dust is a particularly bad source of health problems and contains a few nasty toxins. I have a young daughter and I really don't want to create problems for her or the rest of my family.

I'm just about at the point where I'm going to chuck the whole idea of a home woodshop and find another hobby.

Has anyone else looked into this and found a way to create a reasonably cost-effective safe shop that meets the incredibly strict safety standards from these websites on dust collection?
 

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A few things:
1) Hand tools don't create the same fine dust that power tools do. The fine dust is the big concern.

2) Most people who care about their health wear some sort of respirator while working with power tools.

3) Dust collection doesn't have to be super expensive. When I buy a sander I make sure it has a port that I can connect to my shop vac. Between the respirator and the shop vac, very little dust escapes. When I'm all done sanding I usually put a fan on to ventilate the remaining dust out of the garage.

4) Putting an air cleaner in the shop helps big time. That's my big purchase this year. Last year was a dust collector. It keeps my shop cleaner, which is safer, but it doesn't catch the fine dust.

5) People have been wood working for thousands of years. Just have to do it safely.

6) As far as allergies go, if your kids or you experience an allergy, it'll likely be to a particular species. For me cedar can get a little scratchy at times but it's not bad enough that I stop working with. I'm also lactose sensitive but that doesn't stop my from eating my delicious ice cream.
 

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First, don't abandon the idea of woodworking, its a great hobby and it doesn't seem to matter what you're doing these days, you'll be able to find some article that links that activity to cancer or worse so I'm not really sure what other hobby you could find that would avoid these foibles!

Some activities such as planing, jointing, and sanding create considerably more dust than others. Whenever possible I conduct these activities outside, either in the driveway or on the back deck. This keeps the dust out of the garage (where my shop is) and off of the things that are stored in there. Also makes clean up rather easy as I get the big stuff up with the shopvac and clear the small stuff with the hose. For the stuff that can't be moved outside like using the table saw, setting up a good dust collection system is important. There are lots of ways to skin the cat here and you can find many recommendations on this forum and others. You can go full monty and spend untold sums of money on fancy systems or you can find systems that will accomplish the task for considerably less money. If you are really concerned about the small particles, I would recommend an air filtration system like the ones available from Jet, Woodriver, Rikon, and others. They are more expensive, but they do the job. My father runs one in his shop and is very pleased with its performance, its a few years old and I would imagine the stuff available now is even better. Lastly is material choice. Sort of like some folks are allergic to cats and some folks are allergic to dogs, different folks will react differently the dust from different woods. Walnut seems to be the one that causes the most problems. For this reason, and the fact that walnut is rather expensive, I have avoided working with it.
 

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The New Guy
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Walnut dust is only a problem if you're allergic to walnut products. Yes, some are severely allergic to it. On the other hand, there are people like me who's worst reaction to walnut dust is walnut colored buggers. When I started woodworking, I created plenty of walnut dust and was even stupid enough to not wear a mask when working with it. I have sense brought a respirator home from work and use that when working with it, but I still have no reaction to the dust.

It's like shellfish. Yes, if you're allergic, enjoying a nice dinner at Joe's Crab Shack may kill you, but if you're not, it's just a crab.

I checked out Bill Pentz's website which is easy to find. If what he claims is true, the entire world would be filled with "fine dust" and all human life would have been extinguished long ago due to it's phenomenally toxic nature. I've gotten the impression that he's a conspiracy theorist like so many others. Don't believe everything you read online. It's not all true.
 

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I think you should not abandon the idea of a wood working hobby.

As other replies mentioned, sensitivity to dust, wood dust and particular species does not affect everyone.

If you are concerned install a dust collection system for the main dust removal, and an air filter system to remove the small particles. I have the Jet model, other manufacturers make similar models. I bought the Jet since the reviews were good and it appeared to be quieter than others.

http://www.woodcraft.com/product/2004673/7332/jet-air-filtration-system-model-afs1000b.aspx

Different operations produce very different dust/chips.

The operations which generates the most small particles are sanding.

For flatwork, I normally use a random orbit sander hooked up to my shop vac. You can purchase shop vacs with HEPA filters. I added a HEPA filter some time after I purchased my shop vac.

For my lathe, I have the dust collection port and the air filter installed just above the lathe. Some folks prefer to wear a respirator.

Unless your family members are very sensitive to dust or a particular specifies of wood dust, it should not be a problem to keep the dust down to manageable levels.

It seems as I get older I am becoming more sensitive to outside dust like pollen than the dust I generate inside.
 

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Master firewood maker
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i think the main point is to take the fine dust that is kicked up by power tools with some of the more exotic woods should be taken seriously and measures taken to manage the dust effectively.

dust control concerns were the main reason why i went to using primarily hand tools. hand saws and planes make sawdust and shavings that fall on the floor, not clouds of fine dust that gets on everything, including in your lungs.
 

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When I got into woodworking dust collection was pretty much unheard of. I think if you used a dust collection system you shouldn't cause any health problems with your family. Chances are your furnace is in your basement. You might put some weather stripping on the cover of it so it didn't suck in any dust from the shop and blow it upstairs. They also make air filtration systems to keep the airborne dust down.

As far as your question about the health effects of wood dust. The occupational over exposure of cotton fibers to textile workers is causing an illness called brown lung disease. It would stand to reason wood fibers would do the same.
 

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Sawdust Creator
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Between my dust collector with a Wynn filter, and my home built air filter very very little dust accumulates on anything anymore.

Don't give up woodworking, just buy or build the appropriate tools. It's kinda like saying water makes you drown, hopefully you don't stop boating, you just take proper safety precautions
 

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My setup is in my basement, and for similar reasons as you, I set up the following cheap setup, which is enough for my hobby use. More use might justify a more pro-grade setup:

-Shop Vac with HEPA filter, with a chip seperator inline.
-Ceiling mounted box fan with furnace filter for air scrubbing
-P100 respirator mask for me while using power tools
-Planing is done by hand or by the mill; planes and scrapers minimize sanding
-Large apron and a cap to keep fine dust off of my clothes
-Shoes and rug at entrance. This is more to keep nuisance dust from getting tracked out into the rest of the house.

I don't get much dust anymore compared to before I had this setup, where it would slowly coat everything in the basement. More critically for safety, I do all my staining in the garage.
 

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You have great tips Steve... so don't give up woodworking. I have the collector and box fan and mask and just finished building a downdraft table for smaller piece sanding.

I understand your concern for the safety of your children. Mine are adults now and we are blessed with grandchildren. But sometimes we can be too cautious. When I was growing (in my sixties now), allergies were not so common. But back then, kids were always outside playing in the dirt so our bodies built resistance to a lot of the pollens etc. I was 1 of 9 children and my dad was a factory worker so if we got candy, it was a big treat... so big that if we dropped it in the dirt, we would pick it up, clean it best we could, and finish eating it. I'm still here with no allergies. Yes I'm more careful now - but my wife and I do not walk around with spray bottles of antiseptic cleaners. So be cautious, protect your children and let them experience life with a woodshop in the basement. You could visit a shop with your children and experience a little dust to see if any reaction occurs... But don't give up your dream.
 
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