Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hardwood Flooring and Allergies: Are You At Risk?

Just like peanuts or shellfish, domestic and exotic hardwoods contain oils and particles that can cause severe allergic reactions in some people. Most people who work in the wood industry don’t have wood allergies, and most hardwood flooring customers won’t be working so closely with the wood that it could become a problem. However, it is still a good idea to know exactly what kind of reactions wood allergies can cause, who is most at risk, and the different ways you can avoid a reaction.

Taken from Hardwood Floors Magazine’s Green Blog, the following are a few “common-sense concepts” you should take into consideration when working with or around wood.

If you believe you are having an allergic reaction, stop what you are doing immediately and call 911.

1. Take Reasonable Caution
With this tip, Green Blog author Elizabeth Baldwin emphasizes the “common-sense” steps all woodworkers should observe, such as wearing protective gear like masks, gloves, and long-sleeve shirts.

Something as simple as a paper mask can help reduce exposure to wood dust and other potentially harmful particles.

2. Stay Clean
Here Baldwin states that keeping a clean and well-ventilated workspace will keep dust from piling up and blowing into your and your coworker's face. Keeping a clean workplace will also cut down on the chances of having an unfortunate incident involving wood splinters.

3. Be Aware
Stay ahead of the game – monitor yourself and others around you for symptoms of an allergic reaction, including skin irritation and rashes, difficulty breathing, and difficulty seeing. If you notice any of these symptoms, clean yourself up, take any necessary medication, and go to a doctor.

As Baldwin explains in her post, the problem with wood allergies is that everyone experiences them differently. Saw dust and wood oil may be perfectly fine for one person and mean certain death for another. Even two people that are allergic to the same type of wood can experience that allergy in very different ways. And as Baldwin aptly points out, “just because something doesn't cause a reaction the first time you touch it doesn’t mean you’ll never have an allergic reaction. Your sensitivities can increase with exposure, just as lactose intolerance can suddenly afflict a long time lover of ice cream.”

So if you are beginning a woodworking project yourself, or have hardwood flooring being installed in your home, remember to take the necessary precautions: wear protective gear, don’t inhale wood dust, and get to a doctor if you start to notice an adverse reaction.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post! Thank you for sharing. When it comes to wood floors and allergies we first think of the fact that wooden floors are healthier than carpets. But the points above should be stressed, too. All DIY enthusiasts should be aware of potential risks and proper preparation.