California Publication Focuses on Wood Dust and Occupational Asthma

Published December 6, 2017

​The California Department of Public Health has published an updated version of a booklet that explains how woodworkers can lower their risk of contracting asthma due to exposures to wood dust. Available as a PDF from the CDPH website, and intended for both professional woodworkers and hobbyists, the booklet lists several of the tasks that typically involve exposure to wood dust, including sawing, routing, sanding, cleaning with compressed air, and dry sweeping, and identifies control measures such as enclosing machines, using local exhaust ventilation, maintaining tools, and practicing good housekeeping.

The booklet also explains that certain work practices such as cutting wood against the grain can generate more wood dust than other related practices.The booklet also informs workers that if they are given a respirator, their employer must train them on its use, conduct a fit test, and arrange for the worker to undergo a medical evaluation to make sure they are healthy enough to wear a respirator safely.

Earlier this year, California lowered its permissible exposure limits for wood dust. The state’s new limit for most wood dusts is 2 mg/m3 as an eight-hour time-weighted average. Dust from Western red cedar, which is considered more toxic than other types of wood, has a new state PEL of 0.5 mg/m3 (eight-hour TWA). Information about California’s PELs for wood dust is available from the state’s Department of Industrial Relations.