Is natural authentic wood toxic?

Asked by neidilane gonzales
Santa Clara, CA

Cost is not an issue,all I need to know is what is non toxic for my baby?


Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

Answered by Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

Los Angeles, CA

Polly Osborne Architects

March 24, 2012

Wood is many things! Most of the species used in building are not toxic.

Offgassing, chewing, or splinters?

Maple, oak, and pine are fine, but your need to be a little more specific with your question.  

Are you concerned with off-gassing, chewing, or splinters

  • Since we are trying to lead people away from using redwood anyway, I am happy to report that redwood splinters are not pleasant.
  • I am also happy to report that rarely will you find things made from the cashew tree, which shares the family and some parts have the same toxin as poison oak.

Beware wood finishes

Natural wood is normally very safe but the finishes put on the wood are a whole other ballgame. That is where you have to do research into the product you are buying and verify it has a low VOC (volatile organic compounds) count and is free of other toxins.

Symptoms from exposure to VOCs look like allergic reactions, and can lead respiratory problems and other serious health issues. I would recommend reviewing:


For more information:

Read "Which wood finishes are safe to use on children's furniture?" a Q&A answered by Piper Kujac.

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.