Does micarta cause health problems??????????

May 28, 1999
Hey dudes,

I am asking this for a friend. His name is Terry Hearn. He has been a knife maker for a long time. Learning his craft from the late Mr.Cooper. Terry is a real nice guy. Recently, during a phone conversation he told me that he has had to go to the hospital alot. The doctors could not figure out what is wrong with him. He even had to go to a specialist in galvaston ( dont know if I spelled that right).

Today, I got an email from Terry and he told me he is feeling better. He has not made a knife for a few months. He is also taking an enzyme that seems to be helping. But the question is this. Do you guys and gals that is using micarta on your knives feel sick afterwards. Many of you may not even know what is going on. Terry talked to a few of his friends and they all figured out is must be the micarta. Well, if anyone out there thinks they may be sick because of micarta please email me and I will talk more with Terry. His doctors could not figure it out at first.

Liong Mah

Follow The Path of Fantasies.
long term exsposer is bad if you dont wear a resperator. bob loveless has mention having a dog die early so he had it ortopsied and found out that its lungs were caked in phenolic resin from micarta dust. i know it gives me a headache if i dont have a resperator on. i think that this is something his doctor should know about so he can deside to run the toxic material tests if he thinks it may be the problem!

Laurence Segal
I talked to IP about this less than 2 weeks ago. They say that there is no data to indicate that micarta is bad for your health. However, I have asbestosis and those companies said asbestos would not harm you. I would ALWAYS use protection when grinding or cutting it just because of the smell. Stainless is another material that can be dangerous because of the chromium that it is in it.
OK guys...

ANYTHING that causes dust is bad for the lungs. We have known for years that sand blasting without a respirator can cause silicosis. Working around asbestos without a respirator can cause asbestosis. Coal dust causes black lung. If you live long enough, you will have some sort of a lung ailment due to pollution or just plain ole dust!

A respirator is a REQUIRED part of knifemaking. I am guilty (like every one else) of not wearing mine EVERY time I should.

I posted this on another forum but I will post it here as well. My mother died a couple of years ago from an ailment called COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Not only did she smoke for 50 years but living down here on the Texas Gulf coast, more commonly known as the cancer corridor, didn't help either. This disease is the end results of emphysema, black lung, asbestos, etc. It is a very cruel disease, you slowly starve your body of oxygen. In the end stages, other organs start to malfuntion due to the inability for your lungs to absorb enough oxygen. For the last 3 months of her life (in the hospital), she was fully aware of what was going on. The ventilator was the only thing keeping her alive.

If you don't have a respirator, get one. If you do have one, where it.

There are things that can be done to cut downn on dust or airborne particles.

+ It is better to cut when the opportunity arises than it is to grind.

+ place a bucket of water directly beneath your contact wheel or platen.

+ when doing hand work, always use a cutting fluid.

+ have a fan blowing where are working so that it may direct any dust outside and away from you.
(have your grinder on one side of your shop next to a door to allow this.)

+ a dust collection system is a nice thing to have.

Remember this one thing. We all know that asbestos is bad, right? Asbestos is also an inert substance. Any dust regardless of how inert it may be, is bad for you. Micarta dust falls into this category as well.

C Wilkins
I do most of my grinding with a respirator. Like most of us, I'm guilty of "I just need to make one cut, or grind this burr off, I don't need to go through the hassle of a respirator for that...".
I cut my first piece of micarta with my japanese pull saw, a hand tool. Worked great. Nice, clean cut, followed by an immediate, severe asthma attack. Asthma is good for identifying toxins quickly. I strap that air-feedbag on every time now.


"Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken!" -Tyler Durden
Check out my egocentric homepage! THE place for Fiona pics! (And a couple of knives, if you're into that sort of thing...)
This question is for those of you who use respirators. There are many kinds of respirators at different prices. What should we look for in a respirator to be used while working with this material?

"Life is what happens while you are making other plans."
-John Lennon -
I'd like to throw my 0.2 worth. I, just like the rest of you don't wear my respirator as much as I should. I developed an allergy to rosewood. I continued to use it and it got so bad that even the respirator didn't help much. It almost killed me one night. I couldn't breath at all. Just like I had something blocking my throat. This kept up for a long time with my only being able to get a little air at a time. I couldn't walk or talk, just sit on the floor concentrating on getting the next breath.

The point is that any dust is bad for you. If we want to continue enjoying knifemaking and many other things, the respirator and a little common sense has to become part of the required equipment!

I don't laugh at the craftsmen running around wearing their silly little masks anymore. They are smarter then I am.
Balut -- I'm no expert on the appropriate respirators for you to wear. I do think they're rated against the size of the particles they're guaranteed to stop. As a rule of thumb, I'd say buy the absolute best you can possibly afford. Then maybe you can avoid being a statistic.

Anyhow, this company has a lot of safety equipment, and other working-type products. I've been very pleased with their prices and service. Since I've purchased from them a # of times, I'm on their mailing list for sales, etc, when the prices get even better on selected items. At least their paper catalog explains pretty clearly how their products stack up against OSHA regulations. Hope this helps:

Take care,

Asi es la vida

If you get the kind rated for paint fumes, then they usually encompass everything that we all work with.


"Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken!" -Tyler Durden
Check out my egocentric homepage! THE place for Fiona pics! (And a couple of knives, if you're into that sort of thing...)
Micarta also releases a strong odor of phenol goodness knows what peter i had a severe reaction to spalted maple burl.blocking my throat so that i could not breathe..Doctor got me one of those puffers which instantly cleared the throat.Took a long time to figure out what was causing the problem...No more dust masks ..i use a fresh air bodyshop painters use...

allan lanigan
One of the advantages (other than healthy lungs) of a respirator rated for fumes is that it will stop the odor when you grind bone, horn, or other stinky stuff.

For toxicology questions, toxnet is a great resource:
Also check
That´s from the toxnet´s hsdb database search for "micarta":
CASRN: 108-95-2
For other data, click on the Table of Contents

Best Sections
Artificial Pollution Sources :

Phenol is produced in large quantities for use as a chemical intermediate in the production of bisphenol-A, phenolic resins, caprolactam, aniline, alkylphenols and other chemicals, as well as a disinfectant and antiseptic(1,2) and may be released to the environment as emissions and in wastewater as a result of its production and use(SRC). Wood smoke from fireplaces and wood stoves contain high concns of phenol and would be expected to be a major source of phenol in winter air in northern cities(6). Phenol is found in gasoline and diesel engine exhaust and it was estimated that 3600 kg of phenol were emitted each day in Los Angeles from these sources during the summer of 1987(3). It is found in cigarette smoke, and emissions from refuse combustion, brewing, foundries, wood pulping, plastics mfg, lacquer mfg, and glass fibre mfg(4). Laboratory tests indicate that phenol would be found in leachate from tires(5). It is also released from some plastics when heated

***(e.g., micarta emissions 34% phenol when heated to 280 deg C)(7)***.

Phenol is a photooxidation product of benzene(4) and would be produced in the atmosphere from benzene emissions(SRC).
[(1) Budavari D; The Merck Index 11th ed Rahway, NJ: Merck & Co Inc p 1150 (1989) (2) Jordan W et al; pp 309 in Ullmann's Encycl Indust Chem A19 NY: VCH Publishers (1991) (3) Harley RA, Cass GR; Environ Sci Technol 28: 88-98 (1994) (4) Graedel TE et al (eds); Atmospheric Chemical Compounds NY: Academic Press (1986) (5) Nelson SM et al; Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 52: 574-81 (1994) (6) Hawthorne SB et al; Environ Sci Technol 26: 2251-62 (1992) (7) Kalman DA; Am Ind Hyg Assoc J 47: 270-5 (1986)]**PEER REVIEWED**"

A further search for phenol will lead to to LOTS of text about medical problems associated with that substance. Take care!

"Peace is not without conflict; it is the ability to cope with conflict" - Leo Giron

[This message has been edited by judge (edited 06-27-2001).]

[This message has been edited by judge (edited 06-27-2001).]
An easy respirator to find is at Sears of all places and get the one with the purple cannisters. I believe it goes for $39.95 which can be found to be less expensive in most other places but as mentioned, it is easy to find.

C Wilkins
Just remember if you can smell it
The other half brought home the point yesterday. I was sanding wood in the shop some two hrs before and I was sure the shop had cleared out. She came in and asked if I was working on wood because she could smell it.
What that means is that there was still enough airborne superfine dust to damage my lungs...
Thank you. This thread is of great importance. I have recently been ill since I have been making my own micarta handles and not sheeting my respirator

Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
Just remember if you can smell it
The other half brought home the point yesterday. I was sanding wood in the shop some two hrs before and I was sure the shop had cleared out. She came in and asked if I was working on wood because she could smell it.
What that means is that there was still enough airborne superfine dust to damage my lungs...

And one thing to remember is even if you can't smell it, you can still be breathing it in. There are many toxins where you smell it at say 500 PPM, but it is toxic at 20 PPM (just using numbers as an example).
I have been trying to be better about wearing the respirator even when I am cleaning (vacuuming) my work area and shaking out my clothes and what not before I go in the house.
Maybe that's overkill but I always remember the PSA video I saw one time about some guy's wife that died from silicosis because he worked in concrete and she ingested some of the dust every time she did the laundry. Very sad. Lots of nasty stuff out there. Prevention/precaution is always better than the alternative.
I can't believe no one has even mentioned G10 and carbon fiber . Like others have said nothing in the knifemakers shed is good for you but surely those two are the worst. Other allergy causers are Mango wood , Cocobolo and an Aussie wood called Squeek. Most of the allergy things build up on you.