Is Eastern red cedar toxic?

Eastern red cedar does not share some of the reaction-generating characteristics of its Western namesake. 1998.

by Professor Gene Wengert

Is it safe to use Eastern Red Cedar wood (Juniperis virginiana) in contact with eating utensils (e.g., plates, silverware)? I would like to make some use of it in kitchen cabinetry, but I've read some talk about its toxicity to pets.

I checked into the texts I have here and could not find anything specific to Eastern Red Cedar. In the past, this wood has been used for woodenware. The wood is toxic to fungi, but that is the extent of its toxicity as far as I could find. It is used for bedding for hamsters, gerbils, cats, etc.

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
Last night I was told that cedar, escpecially red cedar, is very toxic to our respiratory system. I have been working with cedar for three years and had never heard such a thing. After all, as Professor Gene Wengert said, it is used everywhere in pet bedding, woodenware, and the oil is even promoted as a "safe, non-toxic" alternative to DEET. But after researching this question on the web I found that cedar and pine are actually fairly toxic. Cedar from a chemical called plicatic acid and pine from a chemical known as abietic acid. Maybe it is time to invest in that dust collection system.

Comment fromm contributor B:
I found that sawdust from cedar induced labored breathing. Looking up the toxicity of cedar, I found that cedar is not healthy for asthmatics. I had asthma as a child and cutting cedar brought back the labored breathing. So, if you work with cedar, wear a mask!

Comment from contributor C:
Cedar bedding is actually very toxic to hamsters and other pets.