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National Toxicology Program Report on Wood Dust

Wood Dust Causes Sinus and Nasal Cancers

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is the National Institute of Health’s interagency initiative that evaluates the potential health risks of certain chemicals and materials having the ability to cause serious adverse health conditions. These identified substances go into products ranging from food and personal care products to drugs, household cleaners and lawn care products. NTP coordinates toxicology testing programs with the U.S. government, develops improved testing methods and provides information about potentially toxic chemicals to regulatory and research agencies as well as the public at large. While a small percentage chemicals pose a significant risk to human health, identifying them and establishing effective safeguards is important to protect the public’s health.

NTP first listed wood dust as a human carcinogen in 2002, based on evidence from human studies. Numerous case reports and epidemiological studies connect wood dust exposure and sinus and nasal cavity cancer. Many scientific studies show wood workers and other workers frequently exposed to wood dust have an increased risk of contracting sinus and nasal cavity cancer, particularly adenocarcinoma.

Wood dust exposure occurs through inhalation after wood is cut or shaped. The wood dust deposits in the nose, throat, and other airways.

“Studies of U.S. populations showed… significant positive associations between wood-dust exposure and adenocarcinoma of the nasal cavity,” the NTP’s report on wood dust states. “A pooled analysis of 12 case-control studies found a very high estimated relative risk of adenocarcinoma among men with the greatest exposure, and the risk increased with increasing duration of exposure.”

For example, a study published in 2016, Sinonasal Adenocarcinoma: Update on Classification, Immunophenotype and Molecular Features (Leivo), connects wood dust exposure to Intestinal-type adenocarcinoma (ITAC).

ITAC is the second most common sinonasal adenocarcinoma. Its growth patterns resemble carcinomas and adenomas found in the intestines, hence the name. The tumors most often occur in the ethmoid sinuses and less often in the nasal cavities and maxillary antrum. ITACs are aggressive and can spread to adjacent structures.

“In woodworking industries, workers with occupational exposure to hardwood dusts may show incidences 1000 times those of the general population,” the Leivo researchers said. “Interestingly, the highest incidences are seen in woodworkers in the furniture industry where hardwoods, particularly beech and oak, are used.” Softwood dust exposure also increases the risk of sinonasal cancers.

Other wood dust exposure-related cancers include nasal cavity squamous-cell carcinoma, nasopharyngeal and laryngeal cancer, and Hodgkin disease.

Wood is a renewable resource used around worldwide, with forests covering one third of the planet’s land mass. Wood dust is created when wood is processed through chipping, sawing, turning, drilling or sanding. Its exact chemical composition varies depending on tree species, and consists mainly of cellulose, hemicellulose and many other substances depending on tree species. Those substances include fatty acids, resin acids, waxes, alcohols, terpenes, strolls, steryl esters, glycerols, tannins, flavonoids and more.

These chemicals, known collectively as “organic solvent extracts,” can damage DNA and cause chromosomal aberrations and micronucleus formation.

Micronuclei are small bodies that bud off newly divided cells that can contain either a whole chromosome or part of one. Their presence indicates DNA damage or mutation, and is characteristically found in cancer cells.

Past studies found wood dust-exposed workers had elevated DNA damage and micronucleus formation. DNA damage and micronuclei formation create environments conducive to cancer growth.

Wood dust is not usually produced by itself for specific uses; it is almost always a wood manufacturing by-product. Industries which produce wood dust in large quantities include saw mills, furniture industries, cabinet making, and carpentry. Wood produced for American industrial use equaled roughly 312 million cubic meters of softwood and 115 million cubic meters of hardwood as of 1990.

If you believe your recent cancer diagnosis might be related to wood dust exposure, please contact the trial attorneys of Allen Stewart, P.C. The firm has decades of combined experience in helping those who have developed cancer due to toxic exposure.

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