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Thread: Taking Wood Dust More Seriously (Long)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    asheville, nc
    Posts
    97

    Taking Wood Dust More Seriously (Long)

    The unfortunate accidents Shelley and Matt experienced recently have certainly have gotten my attention about power tools. Not that I am using any of mine lately. Their accidents prompted me to post about the problems I have been having from exposure to wood dust in my shop over the past six months.

    Before setting up my workshop about a year and a half ago I read everything I could find on working safety in a woodworking shop. This included Bill Pentz's excellent information on how to avoid the dangers of wood dust found on his website.

    While I followed much of Bill's advice, I did not invest in a cyclone. My dust collection system seemed appropriate and used bags which filtered down to 1.0 micron. I could have been better about changing out of my shop clothes after working on a project. I always wore a disposable dust mask but usually took it off when I turned off a power tool. In hind sight, I should have done a better job of collecting wood dust at the source especially on my contractors saw and sanding center.

    I was in very good health and at 50 years old was training for a marathon and riding my bike 30 to 40 miles a week. Also no breathing problems at all for the first year of woodworking. I was the last person I thought would have any problems with a reaction to wood dust.

    After working on a project for about six hours last spring, I began to have some wheezing and shortness of breath. I took a break and walked out side and felt better. This had happened once before after several hours in the shop and resolved itself within a few minutes of stopping work. A few of days later I went back in the shop. The symptoms reappeared in about an hour and were worse this time. They barely got better when I stopped working.

    By that afternoon I was breathing better but was really tired and having flu-like symptoms including fever and chills, an unproductive cough and what felt like burning in my throat and chest. I thought I was coming down with a virus made worse by being in the shop that day. I just could not believe (absent any prior history) working in the shop for such a short time could make me so sick so fast.

    My wife (who is a physician) came home for dinner took one look at me and said "we are going to the emergency room". Six hours of tests, breathing treatments, IV steroids and other medications later we were on our way home with a diagnosis of bronchus and asthma. Three days later I was not any better and running a fever of 103. The bronchus turns into pneumonia with more tests and medications. It is two weeks before I can walk to the top of the stairs without stopping to rest and a month of medications and breathing treatments at home.

    I take five months off and try woodworking again. This time with hand tools. I use the best respirator I can find and change my clothes and shower after being in the shop and limit my work to two hours at a time. No problems in the past month. The big lesson for me is taking the first incident of shortness of breath and wheezing more seriously. Given what I know now I would have significantly improved dust collection at the source on each power tool, used a real respirator and been more careful about wood dust in general.

    Hope this helps anyone who is having any symptoms of allergies from working in the shop.

    Lloyd Morris

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Skillman, NJ
    Posts
    933

    dc's

    Lloyd,
    You are very correct in your concerns. I like many of us have always seemed to put the DC portion of the shop as the last thing to purchase. After some very long deliberation and not wanted to spend the money I finally decided on the RL160 that I just took delivery of. As I tuned pro I found out all my new machines severely taxed my current DC system to the point that it was no longer functioning the way it should be. I had to shift some machine locations just in order to have sufficient chip removal. The problem with that is, as we have become more educated on, that chip removal alone is not the problem. We mainly need the fine stuff gone. How many times have you guys/gals gone to blow your nose and seen all the fine stuff. Sounds kind of sick, but remember some of that stuff can & will get into your lungs.
    I can not give a full report on my new system yet as it is too new but I can say it has tremendous suction considering the size and the space it fits in. I also believe the clean air filtration standards it was designed for are much higher than what we have here in the USA.
    Like I have said in some of my posts about European equipment, you can not put a price on your safety and HEALTH. Do not go after something just because it is cheap. Buy quality, well designed equipment and you will benefit in many ways.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Posts
    61,327
    Lloyd, one of the things to also examine is what species you were working with when the problem started. Sometimes one can develope an extreme sensitivity to one or more species which then can escallate into general intollerance for wood dust. This happened to my locksmith many years ago...he had to give up all woodworking, including simple carving. He now wears gloves and a mask when mortising in a wood door even...

    So if you can identify any particular trigger, avoid it totally if and when you try to restart woodworking. And invest in a pro respirator hood no matter what at this point.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Midland, Michigan
    Posts
    453
    Jim is absolutely right about sensitivity to a given/particular species. Red Oak, my favorite wood, gives me real problems. If I let the chips from sawing it land on my bare arms or hit me in the face I turn red and blochy pretty quickly. I have to wrap up like a mommy to work with it. I have shortness of breath and wheezing anyway (heart condition and cigars) but I'm thinking that the Red Oak dust may be doing on the inside of me what I know it does on the outside. I need better dust control.
    Work safe, have fun, enjoy the sport.
    Remember that a guy never has to come down out of the clouds if he keeps filling the valleys with peaks. Steve

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    asheville, nc
    Posts
    97
    Jim,

    Many thanks for pointing out something missed in this whole episode. That it might be just one species of wood that triggered the initial allergic reaction and not wood dust in general just never occurred to any of us.

    Weeks after the event the allergy tests indicated a strong positive reaction to several things I had never been allergic to before or since and the best medical advice was to stay away from all wood dust as a general precaution.

    The Allergist (and my wife) suggested I go back for a repeat of the tests in six months which is coming up and I will ask them to test for specific wood types and we will see what turns up.

    Lloyd Morris

  6. #6
    Great Thread Lloyd. Seems that Blake McCulley suffered similar symptoms caused by Cocobolo. Now he doesn't work with it at all...regretfully so.
    ~john
    "There's nothing wrong with Quiet" ` Jeremiah Johnson

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Trinity County California
    Posts
    729

    Taking Dust More Seriously

    I am curious. While completing purchase of an entire new shop, I left safety equipment to the very end. I puchased a 1200 cfm General DC unit with a 1 micron bag.

    Today, I was compiling my personal safety equipment. Why is it that the face masks sold by Lee Valley, Highland Hardware and a few others don't list the micron screening size?

    I'm thinking of getting a Tyvek suit, like those worn by spray painters, for the really dusty jobs. But I recall reading the Bill Pentz essay, and he said the .5 micron particles are the bad ones.

    If I eliminate 1 micron at the DC unit, how do I filter down to 1/2 micron?

    Gary Curtis

  8. Some of the cartridge filters that can be added to your DC will filter to the sub-micron level. Bill mentions Wynn Engineering on his site. See http://www.wynnenv.com/35A_series_cartridge_kit.htm for info on a cartridge filter for the HF unit ... and links to others.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Winter Springs Fl
    Posts
    195
    Just rebuilt my shop and the dust collector is OUTSIDE. It is soooo much quieter and absolutely NO dust. That stuff will kill you. Sat afternoon. I attended the fineral of my very best and oldest friend. Iam 58 and he had just turned 60. I have a 750cfm air filter hangimg from (hepa) my shop ceiling. Two 2500 cfm exhaust fans and a Fein turbo 3 w/ a hepa filter. The hepa is the only safe way to filter air. I live in Fl and my shop is a/c. My friend was a carpenter his entire adult life and I'm sure the wood dust was at least a contributing factor. He died of cancer. He was eaten up inside but the Drs felt it probably started in his lungs. Food for thoughtt,

    Jim

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Trinity County California
    Posts
    729

    Taking Dust Seriously

    What about masks? Which are the best?

    I'm not interested in over the head hoods or positive pressure systems. If it's cumbersome, human nature is such that it won't get used.

    Gary Curtis

  11. #11
    Llloyd, makes good sense.
    Paul - " finally decided on the RL160", excuse my ignorance but what is a RL160?

    Noel

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Wake Forest, NC
    Posts
    491
    It is scary. I empathize with you and I am in the process of getting my act together. I had squeezed the LOML to agree to let me buy a new stationary tool, and she was even going to buy me a nice Minimax or Agazzani bandsaw for Christmas, but all the information I have read on dust has scared me so I have ordered a Oneida Cyclone and I am upgrading all of my sanders to use vacuum/dust collection hookups. I have a collector already, but it does not filter as well or as fine as I would like not to mention not using the right fittings and joints has reduced its performance. I as well have been trying to get into the hand tools more, and although it has taken a long long time, I can finally halfway use a handplane and understand how to tune one up and how to sharpen them as well as a chisel.

    Hopefully, you will be able to get back into it, but taking it slow and doing it right the first time is the only way to go.

    Your email strikes home to me. I am 41 and I am beginning to realize that it isn't always someone else things happen to, it can be you if you take too many shortcuts. Pay me now or pay me later is a very true saying.

  13. #13

    OK time for me to get on my pulpet.

    I happen to work as a product manager for a safety house and spend a great deal of my time working with Industrial Hygenists selecting instrumentation to measure partiulate matter. any particles less the PM 10 (10 microns in size) can get into you lungs. an example of these typse of particles is asbestose which is between 6 and 8 microns. PM-1 (1 micron is so small that it can be absorbed into you blood.

    Like many have stated there is no better solution then elimatring the source of partiulate. The problem as I see it is even the best cyclones don't always get the airborn stuff out of the air. I don't have a very good DC system so it would do me little good to do any measurements of airborn dust either size or concentration but when I set up my new shop next years I plan on doing just that. Air filtration system are a good way to cut down on the airborn dust that doesn't get into the DC but again I haven't realy seen any good data colected to determine the effeciencies of these systems.

    NIOSH rates resperator under the NIOSH standard 42 part 84

    The next best solution is a positive air system where you keep a positive pressure inside the mask. If you are going to get one of these then look for one that is rated at N100 for non oil based and P100 for Oil based aerosoles

    Passive systems such asface masks are good only is they fit properly, That mean no facial hair (sorry Jim Becker and a few others) and if they have the proper filters installed. there are filters avaible but I am quite sure that the borgs don't carry them. Look for filters that have an N95 rating. Thats about as good as you going to get. These are rated down to .3 microns and are 95% effecient.

    OK now I'll get off of my pulpet.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Skillman, NJ
    Posts
    933
    Quote Originally Posted by Noel Hegan
    Llloyd, makes good sense.
    Paul - " finally decided on the RL160", excuse my ignorance but what is a RL160?

    Noel
    Noel,
    The RL160 is a dust collector made by Felder. It is not cheap but here are the reasons I decided on it: easily fit my space (I have 9ft ceilings but still have issues with the bigger cyclones + ducting), it offers a total of 106gl capacity for chip holding in two separate bagged compartments, It offers a tremendous amount of suction, and its fitration system is based upon a very stringent Austrian/German standard that I believe surpasses what we have here in the USA.

  15. Quote Originally Posted by Don Baer
    Passive systems such asface masks are good only is they fit properly, That mean no facial hair (sorry Jim Becker and a few others) and if they have the proper filters installed.
    Its been a problem for me, with my moustache and beard. I did find a mask of sorts that works like a snorkle ... you put the mouthpiece in your mouth so the facial hair doesn't interfere. Its called the Resp-O-Rator and is available from places like Woodcraft and Hartville Tool.

    I have the "Jr." version because it was only $10; I'm thinking of getting the full version to prevent the "woodworker slobber" from getting inside the thing. It is rated at 99% for down to .03 microns with NIOSH approval pending.
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