Well said sir!
Actually, you both may well be correct in your original assertions. The
real distinction may be between what lives within the wood or directly on
its surface and what lives on the molds, mildews, dust, dirt, and critter
droppings that can accumulate on long-stored or long-installed wood objects.
David Merrill (not a biologist either)
On Thu, 15 Feb 2007 16:56:16 -0600, Frank Boettcher
That may be true of wood kept off the ground, but that's not always
the way it is stored. Can't know unless you see the particular case
in point, and a guy buying tools at Walmart is unlikely to be a
high-end craftsman who has put a lot of time into figuring out his
There are acids in the wood that kill bacteria, as I understand it.
However, those woods are properly dried, stored indoors and cleaned
after use. It's not terribly farfetched to think that something like
a pile of maple planks left outdoors could support bacteria if they're
stacked face to face and an animal uses them as a toilet or sleeps on
them. There are sugars in the sap for the bacteria to consume, and
keeping the wood closely stacked can keep the outdoor air from those
They do have one, at least around here. It has a FEW home owner type
drills and power saws and some low end hand tools. You can pick up same
fair deals once in a Blue Moon. K-Mart has a better selection most of the
time even if it is crapsman stuff. I think the low end tools people buy may
have a lot to do with the mystery of how tradesmen and artisians do such
Some guy...had a friend...that was hospitalized from an infection and the
friend of the guy said that it was due to old lumber.
I got some problems with this kind of heresy. Seems to me they would have
to culture the bugs that were infecting the guy and then trace this to the
source in order to make the connection.
Seems to me the only time this kind of thing happens is when there is a
great public health threat, and that is usually after people start dropping
dead from some strange infection.
I can only think of several cases like the mouse turd dust, Sars, or the
Ebola virus where the CDC sends out men in white coveralls and fancy
respirators to track down the vector of something nasty.
About the time I had mastered getting the toothpaste back in the tube, then
Not far feched at all if it wasn't the wood, but what was on it
one possiblity is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
Idaho had an outbreak about 15 years ago, the people who got sick
where cleaning out a shed and an other one was cleaing out a basement
if the boards have been sitting in a shed, the mice come in and poop
and pee and there you go
Just to add a little fuel to the fire; I ran into an older gentleman
(who asked me not to mention his name over the internet) over the
weekend at the Home Depot who has retired from both the lumber
industry and the woodworking industry. He said that this debate is
much, much older than I thought. He told me that he's known of many
similar instances of what I had told him and everyone in this
newsgroup. He said that the symptoms are usually passed off as
another type of problem.
He went on to say that supposedly the fungi that grow on the wood
won't malignantly seek us out to cause problems but their spore when
stirred up can get into the respiratory system and open us up for
other infections. Then to the contrary, he added that he could
remember a small bit of lumber that sat in an old drying shed that had
no fungi or mold or anything as he said on it and it still
decomposed. He said that this in particular led him to believe there
may be something we were not aware of that made wood (cut wood I
suppose) its home and was perhaps the main contributor to
decomposition. He added that it may actually be an infectious agent
or have infectious properties, but being unknown it was simply passed
off as something else.
His reasoning behind this was he had known people who told him that
before coming to work in these industries had no known allergies or
chronic illnesses, but after exposure to the wood (even those not
around the machines where sawdust was generated; I asked) would
develope chronic problems that were passed off as allergies, the flu,
bronchitis or similar by doctors. He could even recall customers that
frequented the yard he worked in complaining that they had not had
problems before entering construction or other jobs that required
working with lumber or wood. The people he referred to that wasn't
around sawdust worked in an area of the yard he called the "pick yard"
or "picking area" (I can't exactly remember which). Now I'm not
really sure what that is, but he said it was far away from the
machines that did the cutting.
He then told me of a Doctor he thought was out of Australia or maybe
it was New Zealand that had discovered a microbe (for lack of actual
terminology) or something that was infectious and smaller than a
virus. Strangely it seemed I thought I could remember seeing
something on television some time ago about this very Doctor, but had
not payed that much attention to it. It scared me pretty good and
with this all in mind, I have to wonder. What do I need to do to take
care of my lumber and myself? I bet I won't do any more cutting or
woodworking without one of those filtered masks on.
Some woods like elm rot so fast that they are notoriously difficult
air-dry. OTOH Elm is also notorious for checking and warping when
it is kiln dried. So I wonder what species that was.
While it is commonplace (and probably on balance, a good thing)
for people to associate disease with rot and filth, it would be
remarkable if the same organism that rots wood, infected
humans. Those are just two wildly different 'lifestyles'. But
fungi (which are usually what do rot wood) are well know to
cause allergic reactions.
Several years ago I bought 300 bf of eastern Aromatic red cedar
and drove it home in my van, a trip of about 2 hours or so. I had
a roe throat the next day, and being aware of cedar's toxic properties
I wore a respirator with activated carbon filter the next day when
I unloaded the van. Several weeks later I moved the stack without
wearing a respirator and had the sore throat again. A lot of woods
are toxic and stimulate allergic reactions. You don't need heavy
exposure to the dust develop those problems, long term low-level
exposure can do it too.
One such (maybe the only sort) of infectious agent smaller
than a virus is a "proteinaceous infectious particles" (prion).
Prions are thought to be proteins, not having any nucleic, material
at all. No DNA, no RNA, just a bare protein. They use the victim's
RNA or DNA to reproduce themselves and one popular hypothesis
is that they originate as fragments broken form DNA or RNA. It
is possible that prions are the causative agent in other
illnesses without current known causes.
The most notorious of these is the infections agent for "mad cow'
disease, which is believed to be the same prion that causes
an handful of previously, separately identified illnesses in humans
and animals (scapies, Kuru, Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease). Because
prions are protein, cooking does not render contaminated food safe
--unless you cook it to the point where all the proteins are destroyed
by which point there isn't much nutritional value left in the food.
protein found in wood would be compatible with human DNA
or RNA, but wood can also be contaminated with proteins
left behind by animals, various bugs, mites etc. Then again,
supposedly something close to 50% of human DNA is the same
as found in a bean plant.
A fair number of people don't wear masks because they've "never
had a problem". The best way to keep on "not having a problem"
is to wear a mask.
This goes out to everyone that has replied and may yet still reply to
my inquiry. A BIG, BIG THANKS. I have to admit I wasn't sure I'd get
a reply and to get one of this magnitude with such great input has
really been appreciated. So far, I've learned quite a bit from you
all. I guess when it comes to personal safety, it's ok to be a little
selfish. I'll be wearing a mask...everytime.
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