Phenols in Pine and Cedar shavings

Phenols in Pine and Cedar shavings 2023-01-02

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Attached is an article, with various citations to research, which clearly shows the dangers of Phenols in Pine and Cedar wood shavings. Phenols are highly toxic to hamsters, as well as mice and rats. Not only causing respiratory disorders, but also, apparently, liver damage. Phenols are the pine smell you can smell from wood shavings.

Anything described as "sawdust" or wood shavings, is likely to be pine or other softwood shavings. All softwood contains phenols (Spruce is different - see below).

Most hamster owners these days are aware of this, and don't use softwood beddings - and there are plenty of alternatives to choose from. Cedar contains the highest levels of phenols and should never be used for hamsters. Pine has the second highest level of phenols.

In the Uk, all pine shavings and softwood shavings have to be kiln dried and dust extracted by law. This removes some of the phenols but not all of them and there is no benchmark to dictate how well they have been removed or whether they have been kiln dried properly. In other countries there are no such requirements for pine shavings to be kiln dried. Unless it states on a packet that they are kiln dried and dust extracted - assume they aren't. If a packet just says "Softwood" and doesn't specify what type of softwood - assume it is unsafe - it could contain Cedar as well as other mixed softwoods.

This article also shows that hardwoods don't have these high levels of phenols (such as aspen and beech) and also that Spruce is different from other softwoods and is similar to hardwood in terms of levels of phenols - so a safer softwood than others.

There are so many beddings available now, that work very well, that there is plenty of choice, rather than use pine shavings. Carefresh, Kaytee Clean and Cozy, Fitch, Megazorb, Hemp and various paper beddings, are all safe beddings to use. However any bedding should also be no or minimal dust (hamsters also have very sensitive respiratory tracts).

Just to add however, that there isn't a problem using solid pine wood for houses and shelves in cages - it should all be kiln dried and doesn't release phenols in the same way that wood shavings do (wood shavings have multiple surfaces exposed and to release phenols as opposed to one main solid surface. Also the shavings get urinated on which releases phenols) But the same doesn't apply to Cedar which shouldn't be used at all.

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