Toxic Woods

A pile of different species wood blanks.

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.


  • 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

20 thoughts on “Toxic Woods”

  1. Big Oak got a lung infection after sanding a finished piece that I turned. The dust was anti lizard and contained several types of germs not associated with any other type of hardwood.

  2. I burn Beech, Birch and Ash wood in fire place. I noticed my lungs congested. Hum. I thin ink I’ll leave the wood outside, bring in what’s needed.. Thank for the article. ??

    • We haven’t had any issues with bamboo and didn’t find much in our research that makes it sound toxic. It is widely used in kitchen utensils which makes me think that it is safe to use. Not sure why you had a reaction when using the toothbrush, that doesn’t sound like fun at all!

  3. Do we have to worry about the toxicity of woods when making spoons or other implements likely to come into brief contact with food please, do you think?

    • Wood contacting food isn’t a huge concern, typically allergies are triggered from the dust that is generated when turning/sanding. A wood utensil won’t contact the food long enough to cause a problem in most cases, but if you are concerned it is always better to be safe than sorry!

    • We weren’t sure so we looked it up – it looks like Cedar can definitely have some health risks. As with all woods, sensitivity varies and it’s possible that you’ll have no negative reaction whatsoever, but here is what we found.
      According to the book: Wood Identification and Use by Terry Porter, the Possible health risks of cedar include: Asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, mucus membrane irritation, nose bleeds, stomach pains, nausea, giddiness, and disturbance of the central nervous system.

      • Red cedar is definitely chock full of volatile chemicals. The active ingredient is thujone, a substance that can kill when ingested. I’ve lived most of my life on the North Coast and worked with red cedar extensively. It’s never put me down, but I’ve felt a little sick sometimes when working lots of cedar in enclosed spaces. It’s easy to see how an allergic person could really get messed up from inhaling the vapours or dust.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.


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