[Occupational exposure to wood dust. Health effects and exposure limit values]

Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique. 2002 Apr;50(2):159-78.
[Article in French]


This article presents a review of the health effects of occupational exposure to wood dusts and of the data that could be used for setting occupational exposure limits for this nuisance. The causal role of wood dust in the onset of sinonasal cancers is solidly established by numerous epidemiological studies, and the magnitude of the risk is particularly high for adenocarcinoma induced by exposure to hardwood dust. However, no current data allows to rule out the carcinogenic role of softwood dusts and, in the view of protecting the health of the workers, it does not seem relevant to distinguish these two types of wood. Various impairments of the lung function have been frequently associated with exposure to both 'allergenic' and 'non-allergenic' wood dusts and may occur at very low concentrations. According to the SUMER 94 and CAREX studies, about 200 000 workers are currently exposed to wood dusts in France (about 1% of the working population between 1990 and 1994). When taking into account full professional careers, the percentage of workers having been occupationally exposed can be estimated to be about 15% for men and 5% for women. Measurements performed in France between 1987 and 2000 show that exposure levels are high, about 50% of the samplings being over 1mg/m(3) (actual TWA in France). Although the studies present limits, particularly for the quantitative assessment of individual exposure levels, it seems that nonmalignant effects are susceptible to arise at the level of 1mg/m(3); a limit value of 0.5mg/m(3) would credibly allow to protect exposed workers from most of the risks of nonmalignant pulmonary effects. However, it is impossible to assure that this value will avoid the induction of sinonasal cancer, even if this level is certainly lower than the levels to which the cases of sinonasal cancers published in the literature were exposed.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology
  • Adenocarcinoma / etiology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / prevention & control
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dust / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control
  • Paranasal Sinus Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Paranasal Sinus Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Paranasal Sinus Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Wood*


  • Dust