HSE investigation into wood dust

 The HSE is to investigate the occupational risks facing those in the furniture and woodworking industries, more than 10 years after the last checks.

It says about 50 people a year are diagnosed with nasal cancer which may have developed decades after their exposure to wood dust, while others have asthma as a result of their occupation.

Its announcement coincides with a £375,000 compensation payment to the widow of a cabinet maker who died of nasal cancer in 2005.

Valerie Lund, professor of rhinology at University College London said although nasal cancer was very rare in the general population – fewer than one in 100,000 develop it – the relative risk of developing a particular nasal tumour in gland tissue in the upper nose, was at least 70 to 80 times higher in woodworkers.

Symptoms could be non-specific, including a blocked or runny nose with a bit of blood. What should alert people is a new symptom on one side of the nose and which doesn’t get better after a few weeks.

 Sample checks on employers by the HSE more than a decade ago indicated that workers were exposed to higher than permitted levels of wood dust at more than a quarter of sites.

Employers are meant to ensure they have suitable dust extractors and vacuum cleaners that will not disturb dust as brushes or compressed air do. Workers may also need face masks.

 Note: Asthma is four times more prevalent in carpenters and joiners than in other UK workers, according to the HSE.

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