Wood Dust, Spray Finishes, and Lung Function.

A cabinetmaker who finishes his own pieces asks whether anyone else feels shortness of breath. Fellow woodworkers chime in with advice on pulmonary health and the cabinetry trade. November 21, 2005

It seems that at the end of every day I spray lacquer, I have trouble breathing. Do you have experience with long term effects on our health? I use a respirator and have good ventilation (I think), although I don't have a dedicated spray area. Any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
Get an appointment ASAP with a respiratory therapist and tell them everything you do and feel. They will check you out and see if there are any problems and will help you into the future. Make sure you get a good one.

From contributor H:
I do a lot of spraying of conversion varnish, and don't usually have any trouble with breathing or feeling sick. Make sure you have a good respirator and a well-ventilated spraying and drying area. That stuff will let off fumes for several hours even after it is dry to the touch. Where you don't have a dedicated spray area, working in the same area where your stuff is drying can make you feel sick as well. I say you ought to take the above advice and see someone who can hopefully help you out.

From contributor F:
Don't spray at all - it's not worth it. Many cabinetmakers do finish their own work, as I did for many years. Find a good finisher to spray out your stuff. While he's spraying, you're back to building cabinets and not breathing the stuff that will kill you! If you smoke, none of this advice matters very much.

From contributor R:
Don't forget that the finishing room is not the only source for your condition. It is now a known fact that wood dust is a carcinogen. Get all of your woodworking tools on dust collection, now! I also went through the feelings of the effects of the MDF dust I breathe and finally upgraded to a bigger collector to cover all the equipment the old collector couldn't handle. Good luck with your health!

My dentist has a sign on his wall that says "Ignore your teeth and they will go away." I know that to be true, and I think it holds true for anything we hold dear to us, like our health.

From contributor L:
Contact a local occupational physician and tell him what you're experiencing. Inquire about a pulmonary function test. Basically, a pulmonary function test is done to check your lung capacity. People without adequate lung capacity may not be fit to wear a breathing apparatus such as a half face respirator.