I recently was working with some rose wood and I developed a splotchy rash, red swollen eye's, stuffy sinus, etc., typical of an allergic reaction.
Is rosewood one of the noted allegens for a lot of people?
Dave, the rosewoods contain an extractive called dalbergione. It is known to be a powerful sensitizer with respect to causing allergies in some people. Most woodworkers can tolerate it. But if you're one who can't...the best advice is to stay away from rosewood.
Thanks for your info. Do you know if the allergen is contained in the dust (which I can control reasonably well) or is it released as an air born molecule due the heat generated by the cutting process?
Dave, most of these hydrocarbons are volatile, but the fine dust does seem to deliver the highest dosage, especially when it is inhaled or it clings to moist skin. Control of the dust is key...but if you have an allergic sensitivity to one of these allergens, it really only takes trace amounts to trigger the reaction.
Some wood extractives are bothersome simply as irritants...and these are the ones that are best controlled by avoiding the dust. In other words, they don't actually trigger an allergic reaction, but they still cause unwanted symptoms...and consequently the greater the exposure, the more the irritation. For example, I personally have trouble with the tannic acid in oak. I don't think it is an allergic reaction (since I have no trouble at all with well aged clarets :O)...), but if I allow the dust to cling to my skin, I develop a rash. And working with oak also gives me heartburn...so, oak irritates me, even though I doubt if I'm actually allergic to it.
Avoiding the dust helps deal with irritants...but avoiding all contact with the wood is probably the only sure way to deal with allergens.
Jon, Dave -
I use Ivy Block lotion and it is pretty effective against most of the rosewood allergins that cause dermititis. At least the rosewoods I use. Ivy Block is the product name and is made by EnviroDerm. WallyMart used to sell it but I bought the last couple of bottles off of Ebay.
PlaneWood by Mike_in_Katy (maker of fine sawdust!)PlaneWood
Thanks. I have a two more projects I want to do using my existing rosewood inventory. It's not a lot of inventory, but to me it's too expensive to throw out. I'll try that stuff (ivy block) when I start my next project.
I am still working on the project I was doing when I got the reaction. I got a shot and some pills, and it seems to be clearing up. I've continued the project but I've been a lot more attentive to dust control and at this time, there hasn't been any additional flareup.
Greetings, Jon. I hope you are well.
Several years ago I developed a severe dermatitis from working with walnut for the first time. It was like a way bad case of poison ivy that wouldn't go away. I was lucky to have a physician who solved the mystery (and who also suggested I shower before going to bed since I had managed to infiltrate the sheets with walnut dust, with expected resukts).
Since then I've avoided working with walnut and have stuck with cherry and maple. However, I have a load of ipe on my front porch that will become a new deck, some padauk I bought from Alan T., and a big slab of bubinga.
Is there a publication that describes wood allergies by species, and how to work with or around them safely? I've never seen such a book, but if one exists you probably know about it (or wrote it!). Thanks! Lofton
Fingrs, if your experience with walnut was in fact an allergic reaction, there is no reason to suspect that you will also be allergic to any of the other woods you mention. Some of them are known to cause alleric reactions in some people, but the chemistry involved is entirely different. For example, the primary allergen in ipe (lapachol) is similar enough to the chemistry in teak that an allergy to either of these woods often transfers without prior exposure...but it wouldn't necessarily suggest that you would also be allergic to lacewood, walnut, or rosewood, etc.
You indicate that you developed a rash on your FIRST exposure to walnut, which is not normally the way allergies develop. They usually kick in once the body has been exposed to the allergen at least once. You may just have a sensitivity to juglone, which is the primary allergen/irritant in walnut...much in the same way that the tannic acid in oak irritates me.
To my knowledge, the best reference on this subject is a book written by Bjorn Hausen entitled; WOODS INJURIOUS TO HUMAN HEALTH, published by de Gruyter, Berlin. I think its now available in English and in a newer addition than the one I have. It's a rather laborous and technical read, but it delves into the chemistry involved and identifies most of the commercial timbers where clinical evidence indicates their potential toxicity. This is a complicated topic and there's no "wood Toxicity Made Simple" out there. You have to study it to truly understand the subject.
Thank you, Jon. I suspect you are correct; the reaction to my first exposure to walnut dust was probably due to its irritant qualities rather than its antigenic stimulus of an allergic reaction. Don't know why I didn't think of that!
Thanks for the reference. I'll hunt it down and let folks onthe forum know whether it's a worthwhile addition to their libraries. Regards, Lofton
Try this database.
Thank you, Mike. I'll take a look.
If your allergic to rosewood you might want to also stay away from lacewood if you have not tried it yet.It took about 9 month for the allergic reaction of rosewood to get out of my system.
C, your advice is good, in that people with known sensitivity tend to be more "sensitive" in general...But the offending extratives in rosewood and lacewood are not all that chemically similar.
Lacewood contains several quinones (a group of hydrocarbons (?), I believe) that are very similar to those found in poison ivy. If you're highly sensitive to poison ivy, then working with lacewood (AKA silky-oak) is probably an especially bad idea..but it wouldn't necessarily preclude your working with rosewood.
...Although, there are a number of species combinations that are predictive. For example, both teak and ipe (both often used for decking) contain similar chemistry. If a woodworker develops a sensitivity to either of these woods, both will tend to cause the same symptoms...and often without the usual, "sensitizing" prior exposure necessary to trigger an allergy.
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