Toxic links

Exposure to wood dust can cause cancer

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

workers in the wooden furniture industry are susceptible to cancer because of constant exposure to wood dust, reiterates a new study. The adverse health effects of wood dust are well known, but there is very little documentary evidence to support this knowledge.

The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Madras and the Institute of Cardio-vascular Diseases, Chennai. Thirty males exposed to wood dust for a minimum period of two years and thirty non-exposed, non-smoking males were chosen as the subjects. The researchers evaluated the extent of genetic damage in their blood cells, called lymphocytes, using standard tests. Along with this, the level of air-borne respirable fraction of wood dust to which the subjects were exposed to was also measured.

The analysis indicated that workers exposed to wood dust showed genotoxic effects, with high levels of dna damage. "These effects reveal that the chemical contents of wood dust manifest toxicity by affecting the dna function through various mechanisms," said D Elavarasi, one of the scientists. The researchers even found that a positive correlation existed between the duration of exposure and genetic damage -- the longer the period of exposure, the greater was the damage. "Our study provides conclusive evidence that occupational exposure to wood dust causes genetic damage, which may lead to health hazards like cancer, with or without other risk factors involved," said Elavarasi.

The adverse effect of wood dust results from its chemical composition and the contents of microorganisms inherent in the dust. At present the genetic mutation-causing agent in wood dust is unknown. The researchers opine that more in-depth analysis needs to be done to find the same. Exposure to wood dust is already known to cause respiratory disorders. In fact, the most studied causative agent of occupational asthma is plicatic acid found in the wood dust of Western red cedar wood.

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