MDF Flu Symptoms?

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Forum topic by burny2009 posted 04-04-2012 02:44 AM 15327 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 2207 days

04-04-2012 02:44 AM

Topic tags/keywords: mdf sanding dust safety

I recently changed careers and decided to pursue woodworking. Thus far I find it very interesting and like the work. I am having a problem though that I believe has to do with MDF. I seem to keep getting cold/flu like symptoms way too often and after today I believe it is due to sanding MDF. I only sanded a small section today but shortly after got a scratchy/sore throat, cough, congestion, runny nose and the run down fever feeling. This has happened several times.

I am curious if this is something that happens commonly with exposure to MDF dust?

I don’t like the disposable dust masks as they don’t seem to seal very well around my nose and I believe my facial hair gets in the way as well so basically they don’t really seem to help. Plus it is suggested that we reuse them lol. I always thought disposable meant disposable but hey what do I know.

Anyway if anyone has the same issue with MDF what do you use to protect yourself?

I’m afraid if I can not find out how to avoid this problem I will have to quit this job and try to find a shop that doesn’t use MDF (there is one very close to me) but I really don’t want to do that.


22 replies so far

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2638 days

#1 posted 04-04-2012 03:04 AM

I have a problem when cutting MDF. the dust from the saw causes a tender throat.
A few years ago I was cutting a little pressure treated lumber in a basement with not mask or ventilation etc. I got to feeling bad and then on a day or so I would cough all night and finally went to the doctor. He checked me over and ordered a chest x-ray. I had pneumonia. I don’t know if that caused it or contributed but I have been a more careful person since. I say yes that is a very possible thing. I use a rubber respirator and often rub a little vasoline around the edge to help it seal.

View woodluc's profile


11 posts in 2292 days

#2 posted 04-04-2012 03:12 AM

We always recommend and practise wearing disposable face masks when sanding timber, whether it is MDF or solid lumber.
AS for the “flu like symptoms” it could be just a coinsidence. If you’ve changed from a low physically demanding job to a high physically demanding job maybe you ARE getting rundown, but of course i am NO doctor.

You will enjoy your work a lot more if you wear a face mask rather than holding you breath while you sand :)


View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2527 days

#3 posted 04-04-2012 03:40 AM

Invest a little bit of money in a better respirator than a the disposable ones. They really go a long way.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View Loren's profile


10244 posts in 3610 days

#4 posted 04-04-2012 05:52 AM

You can get a respirator you hold in your mouth like
a snorkel. It has a clip to seal your nose. Apparently
they work well.

MDF has formaldehyde in it. Don’t freak out, it’s probably
not more toxic than regular wood dust but it does
irritate mucus membranes more due to the formaldehyde.
You can get formaldehyde-free MDF but not from a big
box store so if you don’t have a commercial sheet-goods
dealer in your area, you’re probably out of luck there.

Best dust collection practice is to collect it at the source –
this is pretty simple to do these days with the better
quality sanders on the market. 2-stage vacuums seem
to run quieter and the ones designed for dust extraction
seem to all be 2-stage. Festool, Bosch and Fein make
higher-end extractors, but there’s a decent 2-stage
vac available for $100 at Lowes called a Kobalt. I bought
one and a Bosch hose and it works well with common
sander dust ports.

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2829 days

#5 posted 04-04-2012 12:06 PM

There is no doubt in my mind that MDF is worse than regular dust because it seems to break up more finely and seems to get breathed in more deeply. There’s nothing scientific in my statement but it just seems that way to me and I don’t like to use it because of this.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View kizerpea's profile


774 posts in 2330 days

#6 posted 04-04-2012 12:15 PM

I have the same i stay away from mdf…


View SignWave's profile


440 posts in 2998 days

#7 posted 04-04-2012 12:48 PM

I get cold and asthma symptoms when I am exposed to wood dust in the shop. I don’t cut a lot of MDF in the shop (don’t use it much, and cut it outside if at all possible), but I suspect it would be no better than regular wood.

You can supposedly get formaldehyde-free MDF, but you’ll probably need to look around for it. Either way, it is better not to breathe the dust, but the outgassing can also be an issue in sensitive persons, so that might be a reason to look into it.

I strongly recommend the 3M 7500 series respirator with P100 filters for dust. It’s comfortable and works really well. I can definitely tell the difference between when I use it and when I don’t. This is DEFINITELY worth the investment. You can also get the vapor cartridges for finishes, etc.

Take care of yourself.

-- Barry,

View zindel's profile


257 posts in 2613 days

#8 posted 04-04-2012 12:57 PM

If you are in your shop, i don’t care what it is your doing, wear a dust mask…get a good one too! This is the one I have and it works great i would recommend it to anyone.

-- If you can't fix it with a hammer, You've got an electrical problem.

View Bill1974's profile


124 posts in 2948 days

#9 posted 04-04-2012 01:21 PM

Wear a respirator with HEPA filter. It might seem a little uncomfortable at first but after a little while you will not notice its there. If you do a lot of sanding with out good dust collection and what really good protection, get a powered full face mask. They keep the dust from getting in your eyes. Replacement filters are pretty cheap. Much cheaper then medical bills. If the plain HEPA filters don’t do the job then is it’s some type of vapor irritating you, get the HEPA filters that also filter out vapors. If you have facial hair finding a respirator will be a little more challenging, powered one is probably you best option or getting rid of the facial hair.

View poopiekat's profile


4349 posts in 3697 days

#10 posted 04-04-2012 01:33 PM

Yes, I too have a problem when machining MDF. The runny nose, itchy eyes, scratchy throat. My wife comments on this, she notices that I get symptoms on those days when she too puts up with exposure of a ‘certain kind of dust’ emanating from my workshop door. It doesn’t go away when I stop working, it kind of lingers for at least a few days afterward.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View crashn's profile


528 posts in 2428 days

#11 posted 04-04-2012 03:13 PM

I get those symptoms also. Get a good respirator, one with replaceable filters (you can also get filters for organic solvents for when you spray finish or stains). run a fan to blow the dust outside and DONT take off the mask until all the dust is gone.

-- Crashn - the only thing I make more of than sawdust is mistakes

View MoshupTrail's profile


304 posts in 2443 days

#12 posted 04-04-2012 03:42 PM

And if you have a peanut allergy, do not work with Walnut!

I use a respirator also, but generally avoid MDF anyway. But Oak does it for me.

-- Some problems are best solved with an optimistic approach. Optimism shines a light on alternatives that are otherwise not visible.

View crashn's profile


528 posts in 2428 days

#13 posted 04-05-2012 02:06 AM

Never heard of the walnut / peanut link before, but good to know!

-- Crashn - the only thing I make more of than sawdust is mistakes

View bruc101's profile


1200 posts in 3504 days

#14 posted 04-05-2012 02:17 AM

MDF is not allowed in my shop and a peanut allergy is really dangerous for your life. A kid in Atlanta recently ate a cookie with peanuts in it and died. He knew he could not eat peanuts but didn’t know there was one in the cookie.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View Trapshter's profile


64 posts in 2357 days

#15 posted 04-05-2012 02:34 AM

I get a runny nose as well as bad nose bleeds. It’s always after machining MDF .

-- Smile and wave boys just smile and wave

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