Carcinogenic effects of wood dust: review and discussion

Am J Ind Med. 1993 Nov;24(5):619-47. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700240511.


Occupational exposure to wood dust (alone or chemically treated) is associated with an increased risk of developing adenocarcinoma of the nasal cavity. The specific causative agents, i.e., wood dust alone (natural products), wood dust with additives used in the processing or manufacturing of wood products, and/or physical determinants of wood dust and the associated risk factors, are not known or understood. The strongest association of exposure to wood dust and development of nasal cancer is observed in those occupations where workers are exposed to hard wood dust and chemical additives are not used. The time between first occupational exposure to wood dust and the development of adenocarcinoma of the nasal cavity averages 40 years (range 7-70 years). The epidemiological data available are not sufficient to make a definitive assessment between wood dust exposure and increased risk for cancer other than nasal cancer. The toxicity, mutagenicity, and carcinogenicity of wood dust to laboratory animals or in vitro with animal or microbial cells have not been thoroughly studied. Thus there is no direct experimental evidence on the potential hazards of wood dust. Data are insufficient or lacking on 1) wood dust exposure levels in ambient air and worker's breathing zone, and the deposition in the nasal cavity; 2) hard vs. soft wood dusts; 3) particle size and shape; 4) chemical composition of wood dust and the extent of contamination with chemical additives; and 5) interaction between inhaled wood dust, chronic irritation, and tobacco smoking. These data are required so that one can understand the association between wood dust exposure and nasal cavity tumors, along with demographic differences in cancer rates, and to develop strategies for intervention and reduction of disease causing agents in order to reduce risk to wood industry workers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dust / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Nose Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Nose Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Risk
  • Wood*


  • Dust