Toxicity in Yew…

This is one of the most common search terms that bring people to the blog, and one that continues to cause heated debate across the woodworking world. As many will know already, I have tried to get a definitive answer to the question…and failed. A reader commented on his own experience of yew sensitivity some time ago, and he has just commented with a worrying update…I’ll copy it here, but the original thread can be read here:

Paul Jackson commented on Is Yew wood toxic…

Regarding my previous post on 25th April 2011. I have not turned any yew for nearly a year now after my last incident. One of the symptoms that I sufferered was that the vision in my right eye became blurred for a day or so afterwards and the wrinkles around my eye seemed to be deeper than usual.

I recently decided to do some whittling about ten days ago. I chose a small piece of yew to work with as I reasoned that I would not be producing dust, only shavings and would therefore be ok. The next day the blurred vision reappeared and has been like that since. It has been about 10 days now and I have just returened from my optician.

Having had a good examination I have now been referred to the hospital and I have an appointment about 2 months away!! I have just phoned the doctor to explain that I suspect TAXINE poisening is the cause and that I can hardly see out of the eye. I was told that the doctor will phone me back today. The symptoms this time are the same as last time only more so. Perhaps I rubbed my eye whilst carving. I will keep you all posted on the outcome.


4 thoughts on “Toxicity in Yew…

  1. Sounds nasty – let’s hope Paul’s eye clears up.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, a quick scout about on Science Direct reveals that virtually all research into taxine poisoning involves the ingestion of yew leaves by animals (and to a lesser extent, humans). There definitely needs to be more research into the effects of working with the wood of yew.

    I’m sure there are dozens of subjects out there in the form of turners and carvers who would be willing to ‘contribute’ to medical research! 🙂

  2. Doesn’s sound very nice but thanks for the heads up. I’ll be avoiding yew then…

  3. You mentioned concern about tannins in Oak. Oak has been used for a long time in brewing wine and beer. There are apparently different types of tannins and some are considered beneficial. Tannins are also found in lots of fruit and in nuts. So perhaps oak is ok.
    I have noticed a slight skin reaction to turning kiln dried yew (I haven’t turned it green) so I wear gloves now.
    I hope paul recovers well.

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