Toxic Woods

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This list is a compilation of woods that may cause a mild to severe allergic reaction depending on the individual. Toxic woods are not limited to this list. We recommend using protective gear such as gloves, a dust mask, and dust collection devices when turning any woods.

Class of Irritants

The purpose of this handout is to bring to your attention which woods are most commonly found to cause an allergic reaction. This list is not exhaustive nor does it suggest that using these woods results in an allergic reaction for everyone. It simply suggests that in general, these woods are most commonly associated with allergic reactions and though allergic reactions to wood in general are fairly rare, these woods are most commonly associated with reactions.

Note: This list does not take into consideration dyed, stabilized, or chemically altered wood.

Reaction Category

  • Mild: Eye and skin irritation (hives, itching, redness)
  • Moderate: Difficulty breathing, nausea, headache or general malaise
  • Severe: Respiratory shutdown, liver or kidney malfunction. See your doctor immediately if you have a reaction that you consider to be more than mild.

Incidence

  • Common to rare.

Wood Species and Associated Symptoms

  • Afromosia: Mild/Uncommon
  • Alder: Mild/Uncommon
  • Angelico: Mild/Uncommon
  • Arborvitae: Mild/Unknown
  • Ash: Mild/Unknown
  • Baldcypress: Moderate/Rare
  • Balsam fir: Mild/rare
  • Beech: Mild/Rare
  • Birch: Moderate/Rare
  • Black locust: Mild/Rare
  • Blackwood: Mild/Common
  • Boxwood: Mild/Rare
  • Cashew: Mild/Rare
  • Chechen: Moderate/Unknown
  • Cocobolo: Moderate/Common
  • Dahoma: Mild/Common
  • Ebony: Moderate/Common
  • Elm: Mild/Rare
  • Fir: Mild/Rare
  • Goncolo alves: Mild/Rare
  • Greenheart: Severe/Common
  • Guarea: Severe/Rare
  • Hemlock: Severe/Rare
  • Ipe: Mild/Unknown
  • Iroko: Moderate/Common
  • Katon: Mild/Unknown
  • Kingwood: Mild/Unknown
  • Mahogany, American: Moderate/Rare
  • Mahogany, African:Moderate/Rare
  • Makore: Mild/Unknown
  • Mansonia: Moderate/Common
  • Manzinilla: Mild/Rare
  • Maple: Mild/Rare
  • Mimosa: Mild/Rare
  • Myrtle: Moderate Common
  • Oak, red: Moderate/Rare
  • Obeche: Moderate/Common
  • Olivewood: Moderate/Common
  • Opepe: Mild/Rare
  • Orangewood: Moderate/Rare
  • Padauk: Moderate/Common
  • Pau ferro: Mild/Rare
  • Peroba rose: Mild/Common
  • Peroba white: Mild/Unknown
  • Purpleheart: Mild/Rare
  • Quebracho: Severe/Rare
  • Ramin: Moderate/Rare
  • Redwood: Moderate/Rare
  • Rosewood(s): Moderate/Common
  • Satinwood: Moderate/Common
  • Sassafras: Moderate/Rare
  • Sequoia: Mild/Rare
  • Snakewood: Mild/Rare
  • Spruce: Moderate/Rare
  • Stavewood: Mild/Unknown
  • Sucupira: Mild/Unknown
  • Teak: Mild/Common
  • Walnut, black: Mild/Rare
  • Wenge: Moderate/Common
  • Willow: Moderate/Unkown
  • Red Cedar: Moderate/Common
  • Yew, Europe: Mild/Common
  • Zebrawood: Mild/Rare
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6 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t see Canary wood on this list. I had a bad respitory problem with Canarywood. It affected my throat and caused me to have laryngitis. It also affected my nose and lungs.

  2. Eucalyptus creates pretty serious problems. A friend cut fine strips for a jewelry project and ended up with sores on the inside of the airways. When they started to heal they made ​​peel and start itching like crazy.

  3. These allergic reations seem to all be related to inhaling dust. What about using these woods for say cutting boards? How do these woods react with food? In other words, are there other considerations for toxcity besides inhalation.

    • The worst allergic reaction is normally caused by inhaling dust, many turners find it hard to breathe while turning a specific species but can handle it with no problems at all. When it comes to making a cutting board, bowl, etc. from a wood that can be toxic it is always better to be safe than sorry and avoid them where possible. That being said, allergic reactions to wood are generally from breathing dust and most people have no problem once turned. Especially if a finish is applied.
      Hope this helps, happy turning!

    • Scott, there’s group on Facebook that talks about the toxicity of woods in relation to food and safe for toys.
      Look up wood toys on there and you’ll find the group

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