My husband has a lathe and sander set up in our basement where our furnace is. We have a very small, old house and that's the only place it fits. There is no ventilation whatsoever down there so he has a shop vac to suck out all the dust. And he has sealed all the ducts.

But the basement area where he works still has a layer of dust over everything. He does not clean this up as he works down there every day for 2-3 hours.

In the last week, he has started using more exotic wood like Padauk and Bubinga. Four days ago I started to feel sick (after just having finished a cold). Yesterday I realized I'm not sick...I'm having allergies very similar to what I usually get in spring - sore throat from nose dripping, scratchy/itchy throat, repeated sneezing, headache, my chest feels heavy and it's hard to breathe.

Is it possible that the wood he is using is causing this? It's freezing cold where I live so it can't be seasonal allergies.


  • Do the symptoms improve if you leave your house for several hours? Probably a good way to rule out whether its environmental or possibly a cold
    – Steven
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:25
  • Yes...by the end of the day at work, I feel fine. Then by bedtime, I am back to feeling like my throat is closing in and my lungs are collapsing. I am in great shape but just walking up the stairs at my house causes me to huff and puff. Jan 7, 2016 at 14:28

1 Answer 1


Yes it could

Please read on though

It is important to know that correlation does not equal causation. That is to say that what your husband is doing might be a coincidence as to your symptoms. However both of those woods listed are known irritants that could cause allergy like assumptions. Wood dust and dust in general are known irritants that can trigger allergy symptoms. Entries in the Wood-Database, for both of those woods you mention, show the following:

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Burma Padauk has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

All fine dust is more of an issue over time with constant exposure as it can cause long term respiratory issues. It becomes very small particles when can become lodged in one's lungs. Please understand that I am not suggesting in the least that you have lung issues as a result of your current exposure. But I am cautioning him working in the house, in the way you describe, for the sake of the long term health of everyone in the house, including his own.

If dust gets everywhere then there should be a dust collection system in place to collect / contain this. This is especially the case for woods that cause irritation. You might just be reacting to saw dust and not necessarily saw dust from the exotic woods.

Your furnace should be filtering some of this dust, in an effort to stop distribution throughout the house, but that would be up to the filters you are using. There are more expensive filters that could deal with the microns of dust that are created from woodworking.

To expect on the furnace filter:

If lots of work is being done indoors I would be sure that your filter is graded for something in the area of 2-10 microns. If there is a MERV rating then higher than 9 should be good. This is based of the statistic from the Wood-Database which I linked to in other answers.

Forget about the large chips and visible sawdust: perhaps the most damaging element is the invisible fine dust (sometimes called “coarse inhalable particles” ranging from 2-10 microns).

Very related reading

What advantages does a dust collector have over a shop vac?

How should I dispose of sawdust safely?

What common woods produce the safest/most harmful dust?

  • 1
    Also, the added dust in the basement will likely clog the furnace filter much more quickly than normal, necessitating more frequent replacements.
    – grfrazee
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:06
  • Thanks! We have a pretty good filter on the furnace already so that should be preventing most of the dust from circulating around the house. He said he has a good dust protection system in place but when I go into the woodworking area, there is a thin layer of dust on everything down there. My reason for thinking it might be the exotic wood is that the other wood he used (stuff he found outside) didn't seem to bother me. Jan 7, 2016 at 14:29
  • 1
    @Mtbikelover It likely is the woods. I just wanted to be sure you understood it is not the only potential factor. Also "good filter" could be subjective be sure that it could handle somewhere in the area of 2-10 microns
    – Matt
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:47

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