iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry

Analysis of dust exposure during chainsaw forest operations

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 10, Issue 1, Pages 341-347 (2017)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor2123-009
Published: Feb 23, 2017 - Copyright © 2017 SISEF

Research Articles

In 1999, the European Union proclaimed hardwood dust carcinogenic based on the classification of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued in 1995. The operational exposure limit (OEL) for inhalable wood dust has been set to 5 mg m-3 by EU directives, though in different countries the OEL ranges from 1 to 5 mg m-3. The objective of this study was to determine the exposure to wood dust of forest workers in chainsaw cutting and processing and suggest possible countermeasures. The study took into consideration different silvicultural treatments (coppice clear cut, conifer thinning, conifer pruning, and sanitary cut) and chainsaw fuel (normal two-stroke gasoline mix and two alkylate fuels). All the forest operations were carried out in forests located in Central Italy, on the Apennine mountain range. During the tests, 100 samples were collected by means of personal SKC Button Sampler (one sample per worker per day). The results showed that exposure to wood dust varied widely with forest operation type, while no significant difference were found for different type of chainsaw fuel. The average wood dust concentration was about 1.5 mg m-3 for all operations except coppicing, which showed a mean level of about 2.1 mg m-3. About 93% of the samples showed a concentration lower than 3 mg m-3, and in only two samples (one in conifer pruning and one in clear cut in coppice), the concentration was slightly higher than 5 mg m-3.

Forest Operation, Chainsaw, Inhalable Wood Dust, Wood Dust Exposure, Cancer


Motor-manual tree felling and processing (i.e., by chainsaw) is still very common in many countries ([37], [39], [7], [3], [48]). Motor-manual forest operations are inherently dangerous ([49], [32], [47]) and cannot benefit from the safety improvements offered by high mechanization ([5]). Steep terrain, ownership fragmentation and close-to-nature management criteria slow down the introduction of mechanized harvesting in mountainous conditions ([46]). Workers engaged in forest cutting who use chainsaws are exposed to noise and vibration stresses and to the hazardous effects of exhaust gases as well as floating particles of mineral oil and airborne wood dust ([38], [25]).

Potential health effects from exposure to wood dust have been studied and include pulmonary function changes, allergic respiratory responses (asthma) and cancer of nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. The irritant effects of wood dust are well documented ([44], [50], [20], [22]). Respiratory, nasal and eye symptoms are the most common effects reported by woodworkers ([17], [31], [40], [45], [33]). However, not all studies agree. A recent US study has shown fewer or no symptoms from typical exposures ([13]). Other studies have addressed the relationship between exposure to wood dust and skin pathologies ([23]) or asthma ([16], [35]). The most serious problem araising from wood dust exposure is the risk of developing cancer, mainly nose and sinus adenocancer ([41], [29], [28]). Nasal cavity adenocancer was diagnosed much more frequently in woodworking industry operators (saw mill, joinery, furniture, etc.) than in the rest of the human population, where this malignant disease is very rare and only accounts for 0.25% ([15]). Hausen ([15]) also pointed out that wood chemical components can have serious biological effects on human health even at low concentrations, if long-term exposure occurs.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified hardwood dust as a human carcinogen ([19]), estimating that at least 2 million people worldwide are exposed to the noxious effect of wood dust. According to the dimension of component particles (International Organization for Standarization - [24]), wood dust can be classified into inhalable, thoracic and respirable dust ([1]). According to the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL) recommendation, the inhalable fraction “is the best convention to explain the critical effect(s) of wood dust in the upper airways and it would therefore be the most appropriate fraction to sample” ([43]).

In 1999, the European Union published Directive 99/38/EC, setting the legal limit for the exposure to inhalable wood dust at 5 mg m-3, as an average of a 8-h working day ([10]). This limit is defined as occupational exposure limit (OEL) and is valid for exposure to hardwood dust or to any mix of hardwood and softwood dust. This OEL is not applied for exposure to pure softwood dust, which is not yet a legally recognized as a noxious substance. The EU OEL, was confirmed in Directive 2004/37/EC ([11]) and is applied in Italy and Finland. In countries like Spain and the United Kingdom, the OEL is the same but includes both hardwood and softwood inhalable dust. In still other countries, the OEL, referred to inhalable fraction, is lower and usually without distinction between softwood and hardwood: 3 mg m-3 in Belgium, 2 mg m-3 in Austria, Germany and Sweden, and 1 mg m-3 in France. Symptoms in the upper respiratory system have been reported also at much lower exposure levels, from 1 mg m-3 ([12]).

In 2003, SCOEL suggested applying a lower value between 1 and 1.5 mg m-3, without distinction between softwood and hardwood ([43]). Moreover, in 2012, the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work ([2]) of the European Commission proposed amendment of Directive 2004/37/EC, including an OEL for wood dust of 3 mg m-3, measured as inhalable dust, with a review period of 3-5 years.

In United States, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists ([1]) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) set a Threshold Limit Value (TLV®) of 1 mg m-3 for most wood species, without distinction between softwood and hardwood, or lower for the western red cedar (0.5 mg m-3 - [30], [8]).

In relationship to wood dust exposure and its effect on health, many studies have been carried out taking into consideration woodworking industry workers (sawmill, joinery, etc.). Moreover, epidemiological studies have examined exposure to wood dust deal in the furniture industry, which employs many workers and is much easier to reach ([4]).

Even though it is well known that the working environment in logging operations can be dusty ([36]), very few studies have addressed forest operators’ exposure, mainly taking into account the respirable wood dust fraction in chainsaw operation ([18], [25]) or chipping operation ([34]).

To fill the gap in knowledge and have a comprehensive framework on the exposure of forest workers to wood dust, field surveys during motor-manual felling and processing of trees (i.e., with chainsaw) were carried out in central Italy. The objectives of this study were to evaluate exposure to inhalable wood dust among forest workers and highlight significant differences among: (i) different silvicultural treatments (clear cut in coppice and thinning, pruning and sanitary cut in high stand); and (ii) chainsaw fuel. In addition, the different tasks performed by the workers were timed to highlight relationship between wood dust concentration and chainsaw running time.

  Materials and methods 

All study areas were located in Tuscany, on the Apennine mountain range. Four silvicultural treatments were considered (Tab. 1).

Tab. 1 - Main characteristics of the sampling sites. (Ab): Abies alba Mill; (Ar): Picea abies (L.) Karst; (Ca): Ostrya carpinifolia L.; (Ce): Quercus cerris L.; (Cs): Castanea sativa Miller; (Du): Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco; (Pm): Pinus pinaster Aiton; (Pn): Pinus nigra Arnold; (Ps): Pinus sylvestris L.; (Alk1): alkylate fuel 1; (NG): normal fuel oil/lead-free gasoline; (Alk2): alkylate fuel 2.

ID Yard Operation Species Trees
processed (n)
DBH (cm)
Number of
workers (n)
Number of
samples (n)
A Rincine Mato Grosso 1 Clear cut in coppice Cs 349 12.11 2 6 Alk.1 Alk.2 NG
B Rincine Mato Grosso 2 Clear cut in coppice Cs / Ca 411 9.5 2 6 Alk.1 Alk.2 NG
C Rincine Rincine 1 Clear cut in coppice Ce 507 10.5 3 8 Alk.1 Alk.2 NG
D Casentino Poggio Corbello Thinning Ab / Pn 130 22.9 5 8 Alk.2 NG
E Vallombrosa Soglio Thinning Ab 357 15.8 3 10 Alk.1 Alk.2 NG
F Vallombrosa Metato 2 Thinning Ab / Pn 111 20.8 3 5 Alk.1 NG
G Rincine Colla 3 faggi Pruning Ar / Pn 382 13.6 2 4 Alk.2 NG
H Rincine Faggio Tondo Pruning Ps 1020 23.4 3 7 NG
I Rincine Rincine 1 Pruning Ar / Ps 1089 19.2 2 7 Alk.1 Alk.2 NG
L Rincine Rincine 2 Pruning Pn 3051 21.3 3 10 Alk.1 Alk.2 NG
M Vallombrosa Metato 1 Sanitary cut Ab / Ps / Du 326 26.8 4 11 Alk.1 NG
N Vallombrosa Pozzacce 2 Sanitary cut Du 429 16.2 2 10 Alk.1 Alk.2 NG
O Vallombrosa Masso dal Monte Sanitary cut Ab 262 27.8 3 6 Alk.2
P Vallombrosa Pozzacce 1 Sanitary cut Ab / Cs 57 24.4 2 2 Alk.1

  Enlarge/Reduce  Open in Viewer

(i) Clear cut in coppice with standards in two pure stands and one mixed stand. Coppice forests represent about 60% of the total forest area of Italy ([21]). Coppicing operation consists of cutting all the shoots growing from suckering stumps, leaving only standards (30-60 per hectare, depending on species). Shoots were felled, debranched, and cross-cut into 1-metre length logs by chainsaw, then the logs were more finely cleaned of twigs using a billhook and were manually piled. The main assortment obtained was firewood. During data collection, the operators worked singly at a safe distance from each other.

(ii) Thinning from below in two mixed stands and one pure stand. This operation consisted of removing a percentage of the trees (25-30%) to improve growing conditions. Usually, small, badly formed or failing trees were cut. Trees were felled, debranched and cross-cut into 5 to 6 metre length logs by chainsaw. The operators worked singly at a safe distance from each other.

(iii) Sanitary cut in two pure stands and two mixed stands. This silvicultural treatment consisted of removing dead, damaged or diseased trees to avoid spread of parasites and to prevent forest fires. An operator with chainsaw felled and processed the trees to obtain logs of 5 to 6 metre length. The operators worked singly at a safe distance from each other.

(iv) Pruning in three pure stands and two mixed stands. Pruning consisted of removing the lower dead branches of live trees by chainsaw, up to a height of around 2 m. Dead or uprooted trees were also felled and cut into logs. The operators worked singly at a safe distance from each other.

In total, the study included 100 forest operator working days: 20 in coppice clear cut, 28 in pruning, 23 in thinning and 29 in sanitary cut.

All the forest operators who performed the activity had long experience in this kind of felling operations. During the study, the workers used their usual chainsaws (Tab. 2). All the chainsaws were in good condition and carefully maintained.

Tab. 2 - Characteristics of the chainsaws used in the study.

Brand Model Engine
Capacity (l) Weight
(empty, kg)
Oil tank
Husqvarna XP346 50.1 2.7 / 3.7 14700 0.50 0.28 5.1
Husqvarna XP357 56.5 3.2 / 4.3 14000 0.68 0.38 5.5
Komatsu G3700 37.2 1.7 / 2.3 12500 0.42 0.25 4.3
Komatsu G5000 49.3 2.6 / 3.5 13000 0.55 0.26 5.1
Stihl MS241C 42.6 2.2 / 3.0 14000 0.39 0.24 4.7

  Enlarge/Reduce  Open in Viewer

Three different fuels were used during the study: normal two-stroke gasoline mix (NG, a mixture of 2% oil and lead-free gasoline) and two alkylate fuels (Alk1 and Alk2, as usual already mixed with motor lubricating oil) sold by two major international chainsaw manufacturers. Each operator used only one type of fuel during the same sampling day.

To collect inhalable fraction of wood dust, during chainsaw operation, each forest workers wore a SKC Button Sampler with binderless fibreglass membrane (Sartorius) of 25 mm in diameter (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Personal sampler. SKC Button Sampler on the operator’s jacket (left) and Gilian 5000 portable pumps (right).

  Enlarge/Shrink   Download   Full Width  Open in Viewer

The sampler was made of steel with a semi-spherical protective shield with conical micro-holes to avoid aspiration of non-inhalable projectile particles ([9], [14], [30]). Inclusion of these large particles would bias the sampling because they are too heavy to be inhaled ([27]). Furthermore, this multiorificed inlet reduces sensitivity to wind direction and velocity ([26]).

The sampler used for the study was connected by a transparent flexible tubing to a Gilian 5000 portable pump (Fig. 1). The SKC Button Sampler operated at a flow rate of 4 l min-1.

The pump was calibrated at the start of each day of sampling using a flow meter (Gilian Challenger). The pump recorded the total air flow and the duration of the sampling session. The portable pump was attached to the belt on the operator’s back, and the sampler was placed at a distance of 10 cm from the operator’s face, i.e., at lapel height on the right side of operators’ jackets (Fig. 1).

Daily dust exposure was then determined by a gravimetric method. Before the tests, filters were conditioned in a climatic cabinet (Activa) set at a temperature of 20 ± 1 °C and moisture of 48 ± 2 % for 24 hours together with three control filters. The filters were then weighed in the laboratory with a precision scale accurate to the microgram (Sartorius ME36S®) and placed into sealed boxes identified with code numbers. Before starting each test, a filter was carefully placed into the sampler using clean tweezers to avoid contamination. At the end of the tests, filters were removed with tweezers and placed back in their respective coded boxes. These were sent to the laboratory, where used filters were reconditioned for 24 hours in the same climatic cabinet. After conditioning, filters were weighed again with the same scale together with the three control filters conserved in sealed boxes at the laboratory.

Finally, the concentration of wood dust was measured using the following formula (eqn. 1):

\begin{equation} C = \frac{P2-P1} {V} \end{equation}

where C is the wood dust concentration in mg m-3; P2 is the weight of the filter after the test in mg; P1 is the weight of the filter before the test in mg; and V is the air volume in m3, calculated as (eqn. 2):

\begin{equation} V = \frac{T \cdot F} {1000} \end{equation}

where T is the duration of the sampling in minutes and F is the effective air flow in l min-1.

If the average value of the differences in weight of the control filters (weight after - weight before) was ≠ 0, the average difference was added (if <0) or deducted (if >0) from wood dust weight.

Each sampling lasted the length of the work shift and ranged between 6 and 8 hours. Sampling data was expressed as a time-weighted average (TWA) over 8 hours.

At each work site, dust monitoring was personally supervised by the researchers, who also checked the proper running of the pumps and the correct position of the devices.

Timing of work tasks

Work time was split into time elements ([6]), recorded separately for every worker involved in these tasks to identify the incidence of chainsaw running time on gross time. We determined the various time elements of the work, with special attention to recording the duration of chainsaws’ running and idling time, i.e., potentially producing wood dust. During data analysis time elements were separated into: (i) chainsaw running time, including time for felling, branch removal, crosscutting, stump tidying (if necessary), moving about on site; (ii) other productive time, including time used to perform bill hook or axe tasks, evaluation of plants, moving about on site; (iii) time for transfer, including time for travelling to and from the site, if included in working hours; (iv) preparation time, including time for preparing and putting away tools; and (v) delays (refuelling, maintenance, sharpening, pauses, setbacks and other non-working events).

Working time was recorded using a chronometric table with centesimal (1 min = 100 cmin) stopwatches.

Statistical analysis

The data were entered in a data sheet and analysed using the R open-source software (R Development Core Team, Wien, Austria - ⇒ http:/­/­www.­r-project.­org). Correlations relevant to the aims of the study were sought, i.e., the relationships between the variables measured (chainsaw running time, wood dust), the type of silvicultural treatment and fuel type. Normal distribution of the variables was checked by the Lilliefors test and homoscedasticity (homogeneity of variance) by Levene test. Wood dust exposure data were logarithmically transformed with the base 10 (i.e., for wood dust in operation type and wood dust in fuel type) due to the non-normal distribution. One-way ANOVA was then used to calculate mean square error for Tukey’s HSD test. By comparing pairs, this test revealed statistically significant differences between the means.

Chainsaw running time differences in relationship with silvicultural treatment were tested with the Kruskal-Wallis multiple comparison test due to the non-normal distribution of data. For this data, we did not find a satisfying normalization function, so we prefer to apply a non-parametric method.


Working time

Tab. 3 summarises the distribution of the working time in the considered phases.

Tab. 3 - Distribution of working time in the phases considered at the different working sites. (Tran): transfer time; (Prep): preparation time.

ID Operation Tran
Prep (min) Chainsaw running
Other productive tasks Delays (min) Total time
on site (min)
running (%)
time (%)
bill hook (min) other (min)
A Clear cut in coppice 138 199 875 517 6 530 2265 38.6 61.4
B 118 376 857 636 0 327 2314 37.0 63.0
C 299 300 912 986 11 666 3174 28.7 71.3
D Thinning 256 327 1070 0 18 1537 3208 33.4 66.7
E 208 498 1563 0 481 831 3581 43.7 56.4
F 0 298 842 0 230 529 1899 44.3 55.7
G Pruning 113 176 900 0 6 442 1637 55.0 45.0
H 420 216 1209 0 0 844 2689 45.0 55.0
I 264 324 1832 0 0 396 2816 65.1 34.9
L 419 372 1798 0 6 1120 3715 48.4 51.6
M Sanitary cut 0 677 2140 0 646 714 4177 51.2 48.8
N 122 755 1742 0 458 946 4023 43.3 56.7
O 36 301 1120 0 337 589 2383 47.0 53.0
P 0 136 343 0 124 128 731 46.9 53.1

  Enlarge/Reduce  Open in Viewer

“Chainsaw running time” showed a statistically significant difference between clear cut in coppice with standards and the other silvicultural treatments (p < 0.001 - Tab. 4). In particular, coppicing with standards showed the lower chainsaw running time, while no difference was recorded among the treatments performed in high forest stands. This was expected because coppicing involves many tasks, that do not involve chainsaw use.

Tab. 4 - Daily average chainsaw running time in relation with the silvicultural treatment. Different letters show significant differences among medians (Kruskal-Wallis test, χ2 = 41.7827, df = 3). (SD): standard deviation; (N): number of samples.

Chainsaw running time Mean
SD Median Min
Clear cut in coppice 181.8 35.7 171a 124 258 20
Thinning 267.8 53.5 241b 201 370 23
Pruning 270.1 41.5 259.5b 207 357 28
Sanitary cut 244.7 31.9 245b 173 310 29

  Enlarge/Reduce  Open in Viewer

The highest value was recorded in pruning (Tab. 4), since conifer pruning does not involve any particular assessment of plants or use of other tools, as in felling, and the chainsaw is used continuously for longer periods.

A higher standard deviation suggests that the chainsaw running time during thinning varied more than during the other silvicultural treatments.

Wood dust

Wood dust response to type of silvicultural treatment

Tab. 5 shows that only 2 samples (2%) exceeded the European OEL (5 mg m-3). One of these samples (1%) was recorded in pruning, which is a typical treatment for conifers only, i.e., softwood dust that at present is not included in the OEL. Tab. 5 also shows the exceedances for the lower limits applied in some other European countries and the United States: less than 10% exceeded the limit of 3 mg m-3, and more than 50% exceeded 1 mg m-3.

Tab. 5 - Distribution of the wood dust samples in relation with OEL. The EU OEL in Italy is 5 mg m-3, whereas is 3 and 1 mg m-3 in other countries. The number of samples (N.) under each threshold limit and the percentage relative to the total (%) are shown.

Wood dust ≤ 1 mg m-3 ≤ 3 mg m-3 ≤ 5 mg m-3 > 5 mg m-3
N Operation N % N % N % N %
20 Clear cut in coppice 1 5 18 90 19 95 1 5
23 Thinning 11 48 21 91 23 100 0 0
28 Pruning 7 25 25 89 27 96 1 4
29 Sanitary cut 13 45 29 100 29 100 0 0
100 Total 32 32 93 93 98 98 2 2

  Enlarge/Reduce  Open in Viewer

The mean exposure to wood dust during coppicing was significantly higher than during thinning and sanitary cut, while pruning did not show statistical differences with the other treatments (p = 0.002 - Tab. 6).

Tab. 6 - Average values of wood dust exposure (± standard error) in relation with the silvicultural treatment. Different letters indicate significant differences between treatments (data not log10 transformed).

Operation Mean wood
dust (mg m-3)
Geometric mean
(mg m-3)
(mg m-3)
(mg m-3)
Clear cut in coppice 2.14 ± 0.22 a 1.98 20 0.95 5.58
Thinning 1.27 ± 0.20 b 0.99 23 0.38 3.59
Pruning 1.75 ± 0.18 ab 1.36 28 0.11 5.40
Sanitary cut 1.20 ± 0.18 b 1.07 29 0.31 2.58

  Enlarge/Reduce  Open in Viewer

Wood dust response to type of chainsaw fuel

To check whether the type of fuel used in the chainsaw affected the wood dust exposure, a one-way ANOVA was performed. The analysis did not show any statistical differences among the types of fuel used (p = 0.253 - data not shown). However, the normal fuel showed slightly higher values of mean wood dust concentration. This was probably due to the presence of unburned particles of gasoline or lubricant during combustion.


Very few studies have tried to determine the exposure of forest operators to wood dust ([18], [25], [34]), probably because of the relatively small population and the difficulty of organizing field tests in the forest ([12]).

The results of our study provide important indications about the exposure of forest workers to wood dust during motor-manual felling. The values of wood dust were considerably below the EU OEL in 98% of cases. The means were about 1.5 mg m-3 for all operations except coppicing, which showed a mean value significantly higher. In detail, clear cut in coppice showed the highest average exposure to wood dust, and one sample exceeded the EU OEL of 5 mg m-3. Moreover, 10% of the data recorded were higher than 3 mg m-3, and only 5% of the data recorded were lower than 1 mg m-3 (Tab. 3, Tab. 4, Tab. 6). These results contrast with the chainsaw running time recorded in clear cut in coppice, which was significantly lower than in the other silvicultural treatment, thus suggesting a lower wood dust exposure.

In pruning operation, one sample exceeded the EU OEL, 11% of the data recorded were higher than 3 mg m-3, and only 25% of the recorded data were lower than 1 mg m-3. Moreover, if we consider the OEL applied in other countries, which are usually lower than the EU OEL, the recorded exposures highlighted critical situations. The results recorded in clear cut in coppice and in pruning may be explained by these facts: (i) In coppicing mainly hardwood species are cut, and this may cause a higher production of wood dust compared with softwood cutting ([19], [42]); and (ii) in coppicing and pruning, it is quite common for the operator to have his/her face very close to the cutting area when the bottom of the guide bar is used for cutting. When using the bottom of the guide bar, the chain is running towards the operator, throwing shavings and dust against him/her, thus increasing exposure to wood dust. Further studies are required to support this hypothesis and explain why in coppicing and pruning higher wood dust exposure was recorded.

The lower average wood dust exposure was recorded in sanitary cut, for which all the samples showed values lower than 3 mg m-3 (Tab. 5). These results were likely affected by the wood condition, frequently decayed (i.e., lower cutting area because of heart rot) and/or extremely wet (i.e., because of wetwood), which reduced the amount of dust production during cutting.

About half the data recorded in thinning were lower than 1 mg m-3, and about 9% of the samples were included in the range 3 to 5 mg m-3. The better conditions in terms of wood dust exposure were likely due to the type of wood that was easily cut by the chain teeth with a lower production of fine particles. However, further and specific studies are required to highlight the effect of the plant species on the production of wood dust in chainsaw cutting.

The type of fuel did not affect the cutting performance and the exposure of forest workers to wood dust.

The other few studies on wood dust exposure of forest workers during chainsaw operations were carried out in Croatia ([18], [25]). However, respirable and not inhalable wood dust data were recorded during these studies, and thus the results are not comparable with the results of our study. Horvat et al. ([18], [25]) recorded values lower than 1 mg m-3 for respirable dust both in fir wood and in oak wood cutting and processing operation with chainsaws. In Croatia, according to the proposal of the Regulatory Act on maximum permissible concentrations (MPC) of hazardous substances in the working atmospheres and biological limit values (BLV), maximum permissible concentration of wood dust of hardwood species (beech and oak) at the workplace is 1 mg m-3 for respirable particles and 3 mg m-3 for total dust.


According to our findings, the exposure of forest workers to wood dust was usually lower than the EU OEL, even though 2 samples exceeded that standard. Nevertheless, the average values recorded were close or higher than the OEL applied in some countries (e.g., 2 mg m-3 in Austria, Germany and Sweden, 1 mg m-3 in France), and higher or included in the exposure range values suggested for the future by the SCOEL (1-1.5 mg m-3).

However, in considering our results, it is important to highlight that at present, the OEL are set on the basis of studies of the woodworking industry. This means that the EU and national laws are at present designed to be effective in an industrial environment and they are probably not suitable for evaluating forest operation in the field, where additional variables affecting dust exposure and its effects on workers’ health are not yet defined and assessed. A constructive criticism of the current risk assessment and OEL, designed for an industrial environment, is that they are based on labour carried on for 8 hours a day and around 200 days a year. It should be recalled that the average exposure to wood dust of forest workers is usually lower (<100 days per year) and that their overall working-life exposure is different from that of woodworking industry workers.

Specific epidemiological studies on forest operators should be developed in different countries to examine the relationship between chainsaw operations (i.e., wood dust exposure) and cancer (e.g., nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses cancers) or other occupational diseases.

The first results provided by this study represent a broad and valid database on exposure of chainsaw workers to wood dust. However, further studies are strongly recommended. Future developments on this topic should be: (i) to verify whether the highest values are significant and representative of a particular type of work or species under cutting, or whether they can be ignored; (ii) to investigate if different types of use of chainsaws may affect wood dust exposure (e.g., reducing as much as possible the use of the bottom of the guide bar); and (iii) to review the law to ensure well designed and prudent analysis of real working conditions in forests.


During the preparation of this paper, our colleague and friend Gianfranco Sciarra passed away. Gianfranco was a researcher who passionately addressed different aspects and issues of industrial hygiene. This paper is dedicated to his memory.

This study was carried out within the project promoted by the Tuscany Region in 2011 as a new research project on the evaluation of forest operators’ hardwood dust exposure in chainsaw cutting operation using a standardized survey methodology. The authors would like to thank the Tuscany Region, the Territorial Office for Biodiversity of Vallombrosa (Corpo Forestale dello Stato), the Union of Municipalities of Casentino and of Valdarno/Valdisieve for their assistance in providing forest sites, forest operators and equipment and tools used in the field operations.

Individual contributions of authors to the manuscript: EM conceived the study and checked the final version of the manuscript; FN carried out the field measurements and draft the manuscript, MC carried out the field measurements; AL carried out the field measurements and performed the statistical analysis; CF performed the statistical analysis; GS carried out the laboratory analysis; FF carried out the field measurements.

This study was funded by the Tuscan Regional Administration.


ACGIH (2016). TLVs® and BEI®. Product ID: 0116. American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygenists (ACGIH) Publication, Cincinnati, USA, pp. 272.
ACSHW (2012). Opinion on the approach and content of an envisaged proposal by the Commission on the amendment of Directive 2004/37/EC on Carcinogens and Mutagens at the workplace. The Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work, Opinion Document, European Commission Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion DG, Brussels, Belgium, pp. 14.
Online | Gscholar
Albizu-Urionabarrenetxea P, Tolosana-Esteban E, Roman-Jordan E (2013). Safety and health in forest harvesting operations. Diagnosis and preventive actions. A review. Forest Systems 3: 392-400.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Alwis KU (1998). Occupational exposure to wood dust. PhD Thesis, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, pp. 291.
Bell JL (2002). Changes in logging injury rates associated with use of feller-bunchers in West Virginia. Journal of Safety Research 4: 463-471.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Bergstrand KG (1991). Planning and analysis of forestry operations studies. Skogsarbeten Forest Operations Institute of Sweden. Bulletin 17, Stockholm, Sweden, pp. 63.
Caliskan E (2012). Productivity and cost analysis of manual felling and skidding in oriental spruce (Picea orientalis L.) forests. Annals of Forest Research 2: 297-308.
Chirila MM, Sarkisian K, Andrew ME, Kwon CW, Rando RJ, Harper M (2014). A comparison of two laboratories for the measurement of wood dust using button sampler and diffuse reflection infrared fourier-transform spectroscopy (DRIFTS). Annals of Occupational Hygiene 3: 1-11.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Davies HW, Teschke K, Demers P (1999). A field comparison of inhalable and thoracic size selective sampling techniques. The Annals of occupational hygiene 6: 381-92.
CrossRef | Gscholar
European Commission (1999). Council Directive 1999/38/EC of 29 April 1999 amending for the second time Directive 90/394/EEC on the protection of workers from the risk related to exposure to carcinogens at work and extending it to mutagens. Official Journal of European Communities 138: 66-69.
European Commission (2004). Council Directive 2004/37/EC of 29 April 2004 on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work. Sixth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Council Directive 89/391/EEC. Official Journal of European Communities 229: 23-30.
Foà V, Cila PE, Martinotti I, Bertazzi PA (2008). Esposizione a polveri di legno: la valutazione delle SCOEL (Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits). [Wood dust exposure: the SCOEL evaluation]. In: Proceedings of the Meeting “Polveri di legno: salute e sicurezza” [Wood dust: health and safety] (CIMAL ed). Milan (Italy) 16 May 2008, pp. 978-988. [in Italian]
Glindmeyer HW, Rando RJ, Lefante JJ, Freyder L, Brisolara JA, Jones RN (2008). Longitudinal respiratory health study of the wood processing industry. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 51: 595-609.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Harper M, Akbar MZ, Andrew ME (2004). Comparison of wood-dust aerosol size-distributions collected by air samplers. Journal of Environmental Monitoring 1: 18-22.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Hausen BM (1981). Wood injurious to human health: a manual. Walter de Gruyter ed., Berlin, Germany, pp. 189.
Hessel P, Herbert F, Melenka LS, Yoshida K, Michaelchuk D, Nakaza M (1995). Lung health in sawmill workers exposed to pine and spruce. Chest 108 (3): 642-646.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Holness DL, Sass-Kortsak AM, Pilger CW, Nethercott JR (1985). Respiratory function and exposure-effect relationships in wood dust-exposed and control workers. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 7: 501-506.
Horvat D (2005). Research of fir-wood dust concentration in the working environment of cutters. Croatian Journal of Forest Engineering 2: 85-90.
IARC (1995). IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to human. Wood dust and formaldehyde. IARC Press, Lyon, France, pp. 35-216.
ILO (1983). Woods. Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety. International Labour Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, pp. 2308-2316.
INFC (2005). Inventario Nazionale delle Foreste e dei Serbatoi Forestali di Carbonio [National Inventory of Forests and Carbon pools]. Web Site. [in Italian]
Online | Gscholar
Innocenti A (2008). Effetti sulla salute delle polveri di legno: la funzione respiratoria [Health effects of wood dust: the respiratory function]. In: Proceedings of the Meeting “Polveri di legno: salute e sicurezza” [Wood dust: health and safety] (CIMAL ed). Milan (Italy) 16 May 2008, pp. 27-35. [in Italian]
Innocenti A, Del Monaco S (1980). Patologia dovuta a polveri di legno. Contributi scientifico-pratici per una migliore conoscenza del legno n. 27 [Disease due to wood dust. Scientific practical contributions to a better understanding of wood n. 27]. CNR Istituto del Legno, Florence, Italy, pp. 64. [in Italian]
ISO (1995). 7708 - Air quality - Particle size fraction definitions for health-related sampling. International Organization for Standarization, Geneva, Switzerland, pp. 9.
Jazbec A, Zečić Z, Horvat D, Šušnjar M, Cavlović A O (2007). Tree cutters’ exposure to oakwood dust - a case study in Croatia. Die Bodenkultur 4: 59-65.
Kalatoor S, Grinshpun SA, Willeke K, Baron P (1995). New aerosol sampler with low wind sensitivity and good filter collection uniformity. Atmospheric Environment 10: 1105-1112.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Kauffer E, Wrobel R, Gorner P, Rott C, Grzebyk M, Simon X, Witschger O (2010). Site Comparison of Selected Aerosol Samplers in the Wood Industry. Annals of Occupational Hygiene 2: 188-203.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Klein RG, Schmezer P, Amelung F, Schroeder HG, Woeste W, Wolf J (2001). Carcinogenicity assays of wood dust and wood additives in rats exposed by long-term inhalation. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 2: 109-118.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Kubel H, Weiflmann G (1988). Untersuchungen zur Cancerogenit it von Holzstaub [Studies on the Carcinogenicity od wood dust]. Holz als Roh und Werkstoff 46: 215-20.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Lee T, Harper M, Slaven JE, Lee K, Rando RJ, Maples EH (2011). Wood dust sampling: field evaluation of personal samplers when large particles are present. Annals of Occupational Hygiene 2: 180-191.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Li D, Yuan L, Yi S, Jiang Z (1990). Effects of wood dust exposure on respiratory health: Cross-sectional study among farmers exposed to wood dust. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 1: 84-85.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Lindroos O, Burström L (2010). Accident rates and types among self-employed private forest owners. Accident Analysis and Prevention 6: 1729-1735.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Liou SH, Cheng SY, Lai FM, Yang JL (1996). Respiratory symptoms and pulmonary function in mill workers exposed to wood dust. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 3: 293-299.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Magagnotti N, Nannicini C, Sciarra G, Spinelli R, Volpi D (2013). Determining the exposure of chipper operators to inhalable wood dust. The Annals of Occupational Hygiene 6: 784-792.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Malo J, Cartier A, Desjardins A, Weyer RV, Vandenplas O (1995). Occupational asthma caused by oak wood dust. Chest 3: 856-858.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Mitchell D (2011). Air quality on biomass harvesting operations. In: Proceedings of the “34th Council on Forest Engineering annual meeting”, Quebec City (Quebec, Canada) 12-15 Jun 2011, pp. 9.
Online | Gscholar
Montorselli NB, Lombardini C, Magagnotti N, Marchi E, Neri F, Picchi G, Spinelli R (2010). Relating safety, productivity and company type for motor-manual logging operations in the Italian Alps. Accident Analysis and Prevention 6: 2013-2017.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Neitzel R, Yost M (2002). Task-based assessment of occupational vibration and noise exposures in forestry workers. AIHA Journal 5: 617-627.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Picchio R, Blasi S, Sirna A (2010). Survey on mechanization and safety evolution in forest works in Italy. In: Proceedings of the “International Conference Ragusa SHWA2010”. Ragusa (Italy) 16-18 Sep 2010. University of Catania, Catania, Italy, pp. 173-180.
Pisaniello DL, Connell KE, Muriale L (1991). Wood dust exposure during furniture manufacture, results from an Australian survey and considerations for threshold limit value development. American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal 11: 485-492.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Pisati G, Cirla AM, Zedda S (1982). Asma allergologico da esposizione professionale a polveri di legno non esotico (Faggio). Considerazioni di un caso clinico [Asthma allergy from occupational exposure to non- exotic wood dust (beech). Considerations of a clinical case]. In: Proceedings of the Conference “Infortuni e malattie professionali nel settore del legno e del mobile” [Occupational accidents and diseases in the wood industry and furniture industry]. OECE, Siena, (Italy), pp. 472-478.
Puntarić D, Kos A, Šmit Z, Zečić Z, Šega K, Beljo-Lučić R, Dubravko H, Bošnir J (2005). Wood dust exposure in wood industry and forestry. Collegium antropologicum 29: 207-211
SCOEL (2003). Recommendation from the scientific committee on occupational exposure limits: risk assessment for wood dust (SCOEL/ SUM/102). European Commission on Occupational Exposure Limits for Chemicals in the Workplace, Bruxelles, Belgium, pp. 36,
Online | Gscholar
Senear FE (1933). Dermatitis due to woods. Journal of American Medicine Association 101: 1527-1532.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Shamssain MH (1992). Pulmonary function and symptoms in workers exposed to wood dust. Thorax 2: 84-87.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Spinelli R, Magagnotti N, Nati C (2009). Options for the mechanized processing of hardwood trees in Mediterranean forests. International Journal of Forest Engineering 1: 39-44.
Tsioras P, Rottensteiner C, Stampfer K (2011). Analysis of accidents during cable yarding operations in Austria 1998-2008. Croatian Journal of Forest Engineering 2: 549-560.
Vusić D, Šušnjar M, Marchi E, Spina R, Zečić Z, Picchio R (2013). Skidding operations in thinning and shelterwood cut of mixed stands - Work productivity, energy inputs and emissions. Ecological Engineering 61: 216-223.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Wang J, Bell JL, Grushecky ST (2003). Logging injuries for a 10-year period in Jilin Province of the People’s Republic of China. Journal of Safety Research 3: 273-279.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Woods B, Calnan CD (1976). Toxic woods. British Journal of Dermatology 95: 1-97.
CrossRef | Gscholar

Authors’ Affiliation

Enrico Marchi
Francesco Neri
Martina Cambi
Andrea Laschi
Cristiano Foderi
Fabio Fabiano
GESAAF, University of Florence, v. S. Bonaventura 13, I-50145 Florence (Italy)
Gianfranco Sciarra
Local Health Unit n. 7 Siena, str. del Ruffolo 4, I-53100 Siena (Italy)

Corresponding author

Francesco Neri


Marchi E, Neri F, Cambi M, Laschi A, Foderi C, Sciarra G, Fabiano F (2017). Analysis of dust exposure during chainsaw forest operations. iForest 10: 341-347. - doi: 10.3832/ifor2123-009

Academic Editor

Giacomo Goli

Paper history

Received: May 26, 2016
Accepted: Sep 23, 2016

First online: Feb 23, 2017
Publication Date: Feb 28, 2017
Publication Time: 5.10 months

© SISEF - The Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology 2017

  Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Creative Commons Licence

Breakdown by View Type

(Waiting for server response...)

Article Usage

Total Article Views: 39060
(from publication date up to now)

Breakdown by View Type
HTML Page Views: 32437
Abstract Page Views: 2022
PDF Downloads: 3780
Citation/Reference Downloads: 19
XML Downloads: 802

Web Metrics
Days since publication: 2614
Overall contacts: 39060
Avg. contacts per week: 104.60

Article citations are based on data periodically collected from the Clarivate Web of Science web site
(last update: Feb 2023)

Total number of cites (since 2017): 14
Average cites per year: 2.00


Publication Metrics

by Dimensions ©

List of the papers citing this article based on CrossRef Cited-by.


iForest Similar Articles


This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. More info