Is Walnut Toxic?

Walnut knowledge overcomes Walnut fear in this informative and humorous discussion. June 8, 2008

I am looking for 12/4 walnut for countertops. Does anyone have a good source? I am in middle TN.

Forum Responses
(Cabinmaking Forum)
From contributor P:
Middle Tennessee Lumber can't get you any?

From contributor S:
Walnut isn't a good choice - it's toxic to many people and animals.

From contributor P:
I've yet to understand this fear of walnut. There are millions and millions of walnut bowls and cutting boards in use and people aren't falling over dead. Maybe Dr. Gene could explain this.

From contributor D:
Until Dr Gene chimes in, I'll say that walnut is not toxic (or any more toxic than any other wood). The living tree puts out a compound at its roots that inhibits the growth of other plants within its root zone (an excellent survival strategy). The same or similar chemicals in sawdust used for bedding can cause a foot ailment in horses, so walnut should not be used for horse bedding. However, it is fine for other animals, and will make decent garden mulch once it has aged, and the chemicals leach out that cause the plant inhibition.

Countertops, cutting boards, bowls, etc. do not present a problem for human consumption. I would be far more worried about the food than the wood. In fact, it is rumored that people even eat the nuts from walnut trees!

The last few issues (Feb, Mar, April) of Woodwork Magazine have a (somewhat weird) dialog in the Letters section between woodworkers that carefully explain the no toxicity position and a man in Hungary that is convinced we will all soon drop dead from ingesting minute amounts of wood, glue and finish. He is definitely in the far, far minority.

From contributor R:
I believe the tannins in walnut will help prevent bacteria growth as well, making it a wood of choice for counters and cutting boards. Oh, and call Summers Lumber (La Verne). If they don't have it they can lead you to someone who will. Will 8/4 with a beefy edge not work?

From Professor Gene Wengert, Sawing and Drying Forum technical advisor:
I love black walnut nuts for sure. It is well to remember that some people are allergic to wood dust, tannic acid, etc., and so may incorrectly relate or report a reaction as being specific to walnut.