I Got Sick From Walnut - I think....

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Blog entry by BradJacob posted 03-15-2010 03:37 PM 10082 reads 1 time favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hey everyone. just wanted to tell you all of my experience and see if it’s real or just coincidence.

On Sunday Feb 28th, I was in the shop all day working with black walnut. Cutting ripping, crosscutting and dovetailing. Of course with glasses, but with no breathing protection.

All day Monday March 1st, I had a sore throat – only it didn’t feel like a typical “sore throat”. It felt like I actually had a tiny chip of wood stuck in my throat (it was that isolated…) Anyway, the next day it was still there and then I became tired. Didn’t think much of it so I laid on the couch. Within an hour I had a really bad fever. This spiked, broke, spiked, broken and so on – for about 3 days before I started feeling better. Oddly enough, I didn’t have a cough or runny nose, just the wicked fever and “wiped out” feeling.

I got better. And then yesterday, I went and did the same damn thing. Guess what? This morning, it feels like that little wood chip is caught in my throat again.

So my question is: has this happened to anyone else with Walnut – (or any other woods) that actually make you sick – like having a flu?

Wood dust toxicity, is this other people’s problem as well?

-- - Brad

21 comments so far

View deeznutz's profile


33 posts in 2439 days

#1 posted 03-15-2010 04:15 PM

I’ve never experienced such a problem but I’m sorry to hear that you did! I’ve only used walnut a couple of times but when I have, I try to keep my 3M mask (highly recommended and get the pink partical filters) on as my basic shop currently lacks dust collection and the brown dust makes for some odd locking um…snot.

Maybe you had a sort of allergic reaction to the walnut?

View Lupo's profile


206 posts in 2441 days

#2 posted 03-15-2010 04:17 PM

I do believe you can have allergies to wood! I just found this also

View jackass's profile


350 posts in 3132 days

#3 posted 03-15-2010 04:18 PM

Hi Brad,
You can look up health hazards of wood at the following address. I took a look and walnut is not there, but many other woods are, indicating their toxicity. Another hazard is animal antlers and bone, very risky.
The address is then from the list on the left, click on Woodies stuff, then click on Badwoods, unfortunately it is mainly for Austrailian wood. Hope this helps. I will be working with a small amount of walnut this afternoon, you can be sure I’ll wear a mask.

-- Jack Keefe Shediac NB Canada

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 3518 days

#4 posted 03-15-2010 04:34 PM


Fortunately I have not experienced anything like this and I have worked with walnut for a few projects.

My first guess is that you could very likely have a personal allergy to the material.

After you clear up and have some time to separate the episode, would a smaller exposure help determine if you have an allergy?

One episode could certainly be coincidence, two is less likely, but three times?

Other than being tested by a doctor this is all I can think of offhand.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View rsmith71's profile


269 posts in 2461 days

#5 posted 03-15-2010 04:40 PM

Some woods can cause adverse reactions. The worst I’ve had from Walnut personally is stained fingertips, also from Mahogany and sometimes Oak. However, one time I worked with Makore and every time I cut or sanded it my sinuses lit up like they were on fire and ran non-stop till I got out of the room for 30 minutes or more. Another exotic, Murado (I hope that’s spelled right) caused fairly painful rashes on several coworkers who worked with it.

Some woods are toxic to whoever works with them, and other woods affect different people in different ways, depending on body chemistry. I know guys who have issues with aromatic cedar, or mahogany, etc. Respirators or dust masks should help you out, but maybe avoiding the ones that affect you personally the most in the future would be the best thing.

-- Robert - Haven Wood Crafts

View Tim29's profile


307 posts in 2569 days

#6 posted 03-15-2010 05:00 PM

Never have had that happen. Sounds like you are allergic to that particular species. I would make sure and wear a mask next time you go out to work (at least on walnut).

-- Tim, Nevada MO

View ken_c's profile


314 posts in 2581 days

#7 posted 03-15-2010 05:17 PM

I can say for sure that I have gotten nasty sinus infections from old dusty oak and from a lam-beam -

View woodsmithshop's profile


1250 posts in 2964 days

#8 posted 03-15-2010 05:32 PM

I had something very similar happen to me several years ago, after sanding walnut on the lathe I had flu like symptoms for a couple of days, I did not wear a mask, I do now.

-- Smitty!!!

View BradJacob's profile


36 posts in 2418 days

#9 posted 03-15-2010 05:33 PM

Woodsmithshop – finally! Someone who shares my pain ;-)

It’s a bummer because Walnut is my fav wood. Anyhow, a mask for me from now on!

-- - Brad

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3132 days

#10 posted 03-15-2010 05:34 PM

This is a complicated issue. Is this the first time that you have worked with walnut ? did you do any sanding ? were the two times that you worked with walnut both the same wood (ie from the same tree ?) Do you have any other allergies, grass etc. Most people have some allergic reaction at some level of concentration. Ragweed at its peak can have (in the air) pollen concentrates high as to appear yellowish. The percentage of people who develop at a minimum itchy eyes or a single other symptom is very high. Yours may be to walnut dust BUT allergies rarely have lasting effects or cause fever or other flu-like symptoms. Normally most symptoms stop when the patient is removed from the allergen, in this cast dust. You mentioned no breathing protection but what about dust collection.? How about other dusts in your shop area ? these can all be contributing factors. First step is as already mentioned good dust masks. If you don’t already have anything else dust abatement is a must. Even a box with a furnace dust filter can make a big improvement.Your goal, if you do not have one a dust collection system is a must. Weather you have an allergic reaction or not dust can end up having you needing O2.Chronic obstructive pluminary disease, (COPD) is not only a smokers problem but can also be caused by a life time of dust exposure.Allergies may or not be the cause of your symptoms. If you do have other allergic symptoms from other cause you should seek medical care and testing.

By the way welcome to the family I think that you will like it here.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View BradJacob's profile


36 posts in 2418 days

#11 posted 03-15-2010 05:38 PM

Lupo -

Great website. I like how Poison Walnut causes “giddiness” – I wish that were true for me two week’s ago – LOL!

-- - Brad

View BradJacob's profile


36 posts in 2418 days

#12 posted 03-15-2010 05:41 PM

Thanks RTB! Yes for dust collection. Not a smoker and no known allergies. And if I remember correctly, I think I did get flu-symptoms when I worked with it two years ago. And yup, this is all from the same batch.

It funny, because now that I think of it, I’ve cleaned my shop 2-3 times already – MAJOR walnut dust all over and in the air – and no symptoms. BUT – I was wearing my respirator as I always do when cleaning and kicking up dust.


-- - Brad

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1081 posts in 2814 days

#13 posted 03-15-2010 05:55 PM

I did some research and I think this may have some bearing.
If an individual has a nut allergy, specifically to walnuts, inhaling the wood dust might produce a marked reaction.
Its my favorite wood, too.
A good respirator may be necessary instead of a simple dust mask when cutting and sanding Black Walnut.
At least for, not me, I hope!


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 3665 days

#14 posted 03-15-2010 06:16 PM

I had a bad reaction to spalted maple a few years ago, and read everything I could on the subject. The most I could discern was that I reacted to it, not every on does. It’s not a good wood to use for wood to touch, not so much the damage that it would do a person, it’s just a fungus and would, if eaten be passed harmlessly through the body, however, the wood is punky and soft and does not hold up well to things like cutting boards or benches that would get constant use. It would have a tendency to break down. My eyes glued shut and swelled up my sinuses were affected, and now when I get near it I start to develope symptoms right away. There have been people who have died from the long exposure to the spalting.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2651 days

#15 posted 03-15-2010 06:28 PM

Had similar allergic reactions, but not to walnut.

If you don’t have dust collection going on, get it. Also get or build an air cleaner, and wear a respirator with P100 cartridges. You don’t want to be struggling to breathe…

-- My workshop blog can be found at

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