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Thread: Spalted wood--safe for food?

  1. #1
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    Default Spalted wood--safe for food?

    I remember reading somewhere that some people are highly allergic/sensitive to dust from spalted wood due to the fungi that inhabits/created it.

    A quick search revealed not-so-specific and conflicting opinions on spalted wood and food. What do you guys think? Does the finish matter, i.e. need to seal the wood, for it to be foodsafe? or are the warnings just fearmongering overreactions? (Nobody likes fearmongerers... )
    Treeclimber in Delaware, ON

  2. #2

    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    If the wood has a finish then you need to be worried about the finish. Your not eating wood!
    Grillzy

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grillzy View Post
    If the wood has a finish then you need to be worried about the finish. Your not eating wood!
    Grillzy
    Yes I hear ya but what about a true oil finish, which doesn't "seal" the wood?... The wood is still "on the surface", no?

    Also, even if a film finish or top coat is used, I'd say there's still a risk of "eating wood" if a knife gets through, or a chip occurs, etc...

    So I guess the question is more, is spalted wood toxic/evil/unhealthy or not??
    Treeclimber in Delaware, ON

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    This thread will likely be a collection of opinions going in circles but I'll give mine anyway.

    Once the wood is dry the spalting probably stops but it is known mold spores are pretty tough and so they are not likely to die even though they aren't active.

    If a bowl is nicely spalted I would be using it as a decorative piece and not eating out of it. I would be making things like salad bowls out of sound wood. Putting fruit in a spalted bowl wouldn't be a problem.

    I have read threads on other forums that if you are selling bowls it is best not to mention exactly what spalting is.

    billh

  5. #5
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    just what you thought :^')

    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    While you are talking you did inhale mold spores, did you notice ???
    Yes somewhere in this world there's bound to be, (or thinks he is ) someone that is affected by mold spores, you also probably get indigestion if you eat the wood
    You ever get sick sawing or sanding spalted wood ??, I know I never did.
    I'd probably be better of eating some spalted wood dust than the finish everyone is using to cover-up wood or what else.
    Oh if you have some of that good looking rotten wood, you can bring it here, that'll take the worries away for sure

    Have fun and take care
    Leo Van Der Loo

  6. #6

    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    I didn't even know what spalted wood was til I started peeking in this forum. I think it's really pretty, but is it really unsafe for a food dish?


    Thing is, I heard the dust from purpleheart is toxic-yet I made several big end grain cutting boards (mixed with maple) for Xmas presents, most are getting lots of use.



    None of the recipients got sick. Of course I didn't tell 'em what I'd heard JUST in case they flipped out. (People sometimes go a tad overboard when it comes to stuff like this)

  7. #7
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    just what you thought :^')

    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    Wow, nice cutting boards LB.
    Spalted wood is not unsafe LB, but dust and oils from some woods can be causing trouble, like Cedar, also poison Sumac or poison Oak are a problem for some people, similar oils are in the true rosewoods.
    Quite a few woods can become irritants after repeated exposure of the dust and or oils in them, like millers that work the same woods day after day after day all day.

    YUP, ..... People sometimes go a Big tad overboard when it comes to stuff like this

    Have fun and take care
    Leo Van Der Loo

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    For some sawdust and or the microbes from rotting wood present very serious medical ramifications. Some even life threating.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    Quote Originally Posted by Leo Van Der Loo View Post
    While you are talking you did inhale mold spores, did you notice ???
    Yes somewhere in this world there's bound to be, (or thinks he is ) someone that is affected by mold spores, you also probably get indigestion if you eat the wood
    You ever get sick sawing or sanding spalted wood ??, I know I never did.
    I'd probably be better of eating some spalted wood dust than the finish everyone is using to cover-up wood or what else.
    Oh if you have some of that good looking rotten wood, you can bring it here, that'll take the worries away for sure
    Thanks for the (slightly sarcastic) response Leo. I gather from it that you believe that what we hear about spalted wood being unsafe is indeed overreaction/fearmongering. Thanks for chiming in
    Treeclimber in Delaware, ON

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    While I think eating from a spalted bowl to be very low risk, if any, I certainly make sure I take good precautions when turning the stuff.

    I have read that Richard Raffan no longer turns spalted wood although they may have nastier stuff in his part of the world.

    billh

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    Quote Originally Posted by Egon View Post
    For some sawdust and or the microbes from rotting wood present very serious medical ramifications. Some even life threating.
    OK so this is what I'm asking about. I would link to the references that triggered my question but I don't think I'm supposed to do so according to the forum rules.

    I found quite the information on the topic including examples of folks having eye and skin irritations, major lung issues, and even links to one death. Now I'm not one to fearmonger or foster hypochondria at all, believe me, and Iíll continue to research before personally coming to any conclusions thatís for sure. I thought I'd first ask about this topic here, where we have hands-on experience with spalted wood, to get any personal accounts or experiences.

    I guess for further edification I'll keep searching for a scientific answer that gives facts, i.e. how many people in general are allergic/sensitive to... well, whatever it is in the spalted wood. If anyone knows where to point me, please do. Thanks a bunch!
    Treeclimber in Delaware, ON

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Spalted wood--safe for food?

    I think you had part of the answer in your question: it is the dust from spalted wood that is considered a hazard. The often quoted "wood toxicity" table from an old woodturner's mag illustrates this (i.e. dust, not the wood itself). However, the concern or potency of spalted dust is given a fairly high level. See: http://www.dmwoodworkers.com/PDF_Gen...odToxicity.pdf

    As mentioned already, I think turning, cutting, sanding is the concern and I would take precautions while doing this as the fungal spores are likely dormant not dead. I don't think there is any reported allergic reaction to contact itself. The potential of releasing any significant quantity of these spores in a finished product is likely very very low and would not be a concern of mine personally (especially if any type of finish is applied).

    Further to this, the USDA Forest Products Lab has an article on producing spalting, and has the following caution which seems to highlight the airborne dangers more so than contact:

    "Although the white rot fungi responsible for the decorative appearance are not pathogenic (a health problem), there might be some molds associated with the spalting process that could cause allergies in people. It is also possible that some pathogenic molds, such as Aspergillus fumigatus (responsible for "farmers lung"), might be present, so it is always a good idea to work in well-ventilated areas."

    Also, I did a quick search of health and wood product scientific journals through a university search engine and turned up no articles specific to spalted wood toxicity.

    Cheers,
    Keith.
    Last edited by Keith H.; 02-03-2009 at 01:29 PM.

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