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Risk assessment of wood dust: assessment of exposure, health effects and biological mechanisms

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Estimating workers' exposure to inhalable wood dust

An investigation was undertaken into occupational exposure to wood dust within the EU Member States. The information was used to improve health and safety in the workplace.

Health

Researchers from the WOOD-RISK project estimated occupational exposure to the inhalation of wood dust in 25 Member States. Statistics for national labour forces, country questionnaires, exposure measurements and the judgements of experts were used to draw up a preliminary estimate. This was done according to the type of industry and the level of exposure which workers were subjected to. Results for all Members States were analyzed and reviewed. The aim of the study was to provide accurate and up-to-date data on occupational exposure to wood dust. This was calculated according to country, industry and the type of wood dust inhaled. The study was undertaken for the purposes of hazard control and exposure surveillance, thereby allowing health risks to be assessed. WOOD-RISK compiled data which was used to create improved conditions for the millions of people who are exposed to wood dust in the workplace. Information collected in 2000-2003 showed that 1.2 million construction workers were exposed to wood dust, which in many cases was at relatively high concentrations. The country with the greatest number of exposed workers was Germany with 700,000. The construction sector and furniture industry recorded the highest exposure levels, where 560,000 workers could be exposed to levels exceeding 5mg/m3. The results have helped to raise awareness of the health effects associated with wood dust exposure.

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