Is rosin dust bad for you?

February 10, 2005 at 07:58 PM · I have read many threads, here and elsewhere, discussing the connection of rosin dust with allergies, and with sinnusitus. However, I can find no info whatsoever on the possible long-term ill effects to one's health.

as a beginning violinist, I am amazed at how much powder comes off the bow and into my lungs. Yes, I had a re-hair done, and have found certain rosins that powder less, but I am still concerned.

Has this ever been studied scientifically? Has anyone ever proven that rosin dust is 100% safe?

I don't mind the smell (I kind of like it) nor a bit of sneezing. However, there are several possible negative effect:

1: It could clog the cillia, much like asbestos and burning candle wax. (yes, candles are seriously bad for your lungs)

2: It could simply be toxic, causing subtle, hard to notice symptoms such as mild drowsiness, or a weakened immune system

-Or it could be completely benign.

But I need to know for sure!

I asked a violinist firend, who looked at me with a most puzzled expression. Obviously, the thought had never crossed her mind. "But it's all-natural," she said.

Well, yeah. So is arsenic.

Does anyone know, I mean know absolutely?

Replies (63)

February 11, 2005 at 12:27 AM · Update:

I am especially interested in the Clarity supersensitive rosin. Many have recommended it to allergy sufferers, as it supposedly creates "no" powder.

Well, it must put SOME powder in the air. Otherwise, you would apply it once and never take it out again.

It is made from "a synthetic hydrocarbon resin compound." -That sounds petroleum-based to me. Petroleum is a known carcinogen.

You see my point.

I have been serching the internet, but surprisingly I can find no info on this at all.

Perhaps (and hopefully) normal rosin is completely benign, but it would be good to know for sure.

February 10, 2005 at 11:16 PM · When I began playing I had the same problem with rosin everywhere. In the last year I switched to using Tartini Solo Rosin. The sound is much better and no residue is left. I play 1-2 hrs. per day and only find that I need to draw the bow across the rosin surface approximately 3 times per every 5-6 days. There is so little residue. It almost never is enough to even drop from the stings to the finish, and I never see it in the air. After practicing a quick wipe of the strings with a small cloth is all that is needed to remove this stuff. The sound is great, and the Tartini grips the strings well. I suspect that you are over rosining. Not sure how to get all that old rosin out of the hair but when you do you may try Tartini or one of the more premium rosins and use a minimalist approach applying only enough to get the sound you need out of the instrument. Then reapply when the hair loses it's grip. Good luck. Hope this helps.. Using this method of rosining will expose you to much less rosin.

February 11, 2005 at 12:32 AM · Thanks, Tim,

I have also been using Tartini solo. I like the tone it draws, and the lack of powder is an added bonus. Still, it does leave SOME smell in the air. (The Tartini green, btw, is powder city.)

Less powder is certainly better than more powder. HOWEVER, that is not the question at hand.

Surely, at some point in recent history, there must have been some scientific or medical research on this subject. No?

February 11, 2005 at 03:18 AM · Oh, no! I am a scientist (biochemistry and toxicology) and I suffer from allergies and asthma, and I never even thought about the possible adverse effects of rosin on my health. Here are my off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts on the matter.

1. The analogy to asbestos is good. If there are any adverse effects of rosin dust, they are probably due to the physical properties of small particles in your lungs.

2. The things that acutely exacerbate my asthma the most are smoke and vehicle emissions, both collections of particles in the air. However, the chronic effects may be caused by something entirely different from the acute effects.

3. It is never possible to prove that anything is completely safe. Everything poses some risk, for example, breathing, even though it is essential for survival. The best scientists can hope to do is to define the risks and make informed guesses on how likely they are to happen, to whom, and under what circumstances.

3. Just because something is made from petroleum does not necessarily mean that it is toxic. If it did, we'd probably all be dead by now.

When I get a chance, I'll look into the scientific and medical literature for information on rosin and health. Meanwhile, I'll switch to a low dust rosin.

February 11, 2005 at 03:31 AM · i have never known anyone to die from life threatening rosin...haha

February 12, 2005 at 12:11 AM · I use rosin as a condiment. It is also especially useful for thickening sauces.

February 12, 2005 at 05:38 AM · Alan, yuk!

February 12, 2005 at 10:16 PM · Yeah... I've seen rosin on ingredients lists and stuff. I think it is used in some foods as a thickener or for something else... I'm not sure if it's exactly the same thing though as violin rosin.

February 13, 2005 at 08:23 AM · I'm a professional cook; I can't belive I haven't heard of this trick. "...thicken with 1/2 teaspoon rosin, stirring occasionally..." Paired with rosemary, I guess the overall effect would be woodsy, clinging to the palate.

February 13, 2005 at 08:30 AM · WHy do people assume it might be bad? Assume instead it might be good for you. What a bunch of pessimists.

February 13, 2005 at 08:44 AM · Pauline,

thanks for the thoughtful response. i can't believe we have a toxicologist on these forums! PLEASE let me know if you find any data at all. I agree with the several points you make, but I think the toxicity issue is probably more worrisome than the asbestos analogy. I say this because rosin can be washed out of bow hair with soapy water. Therefore, it PROBABLY breaks down in the cilia.

However, I really can't think of any substance at all that is completely safe when inhaled.

Erika, Alan, Adela, & Emily: Please save the silliness for some other thread. This is a serious discussion about a possibly serious issue.

Many, many substances once thought to be completely safe are now recognized to be dangerous. Some cause effects mild enough to be attributed to other things, such as the flu. Some weaken the immune system, and so it is very hard to recognize the source toxin. Some cause birth defects years later, and so are similarly not recognized for a long time.

One might also consider the effect on babies. Perhaps a little rosin dust can be tolerated by adults, but is bad for a baby's developing nervous system. In a home where someone practices regularly, where does all that rosin dust fall? And where do babies play?

Do you still think it's a matter for jokes?

Perhaps (just perhaps) violinists and violists have a higher-than-normal instance of liver and kidney damage, due to constant inhalation of the stuff. Probably not, but let's say they did. Would you know about it? Has anyone ever done such a study?

Has this topic really never come up before?

February 13, 2005 at 09:06 AM · Allan, how do we convince these nonbelievers?

February 13, 2005 at 09:14 AM · I personally cannot take this topic too seriously, as I have far too many other things I worry about to spend some here, as well. I am happy to have kept myself, so far, clear of other powder-sniffing hobbies, and I have to be content with that. I apologise for appearing unsypathetic to those who have been negatively affected by rosin, as this was not my intention. I misunderstood the intended gravity of the issue at hand.

If I die young from cancer, we'll never know if it was the pesticides or the cleaning agents, or the soaps, deoderants, and perfumes, or the couple of packs of cloves I smoked, or telephone lines or the cell-phones. Or perhaps it'll be the rosin dust. Personally, I'll attribute it to the alternatebowing.

Don't worry, I'll leave this thread alone from now on. No hard feelings? :)

February 13, 2005 at 09:22 AM · I didn't know you were a professional cook. In that case, the cake was pretty good.

February 13, 2005 at 03:56 PM · I would think that if your initial bow strokes are setting off clouds of dust, you are using too much rosin, no matter what brand of rosin you use. I clearly remember the first time my son asiduously rosined his bow as a beginner, and shortly after his teacher tuned the violin and was promptly enveloped by such a cloud of dust as to render him invisible. O.k., I exaggerate but it was still rather comical - and when "the dust settled" the advice was that this amount of rosining was not necessary.

That aside, apparently for those who DO develop an allergy, it can be quite serious. And no jokes about eating the stuff. I ran into this information while reading a thread where a violin maker/restorer had the habit of tasting old varnish to determine its chemical composition and broke out in a skin condition that would recur for over a week. Rosin, or "colophony" is also used in makeup and creams, and when people allergic to it come into contact with it -- after smearing it directly onto their skin of course --- well, the article is here: Warning: the photos are not nice. But that's for people with allergies. If that were common, surely the right hands of violinists would become all mottled and splotched.

I love the smell of rosin, by the way - though if I clearly smell it, I'm probably using too much.

February 13, 2005 at 06:19 PM · I hear it packs a wicked buzz if you smoke it

February 13, 2005 at 06:21 PM · hahahaha

February 13, 2005 at 07:28 PM ·

Update from Resident Toxicology Consultant:

I read the article cited by Inge in an earlier post, and here are my thoughts about it. It was very interesting, but I wonder whether the rosin it discussed was violin bow rosin, since violin bow rosin was not on the long list of products cited. The article names the major chemical component of rosin (abietic acid), and this would be useful information if it's applicable to violin bow rosin.

The acute and chronic effects of a substance are frequently different. One may be innocuous and the other adverse. In the present case, contact dermatitis and acute worsening of asthma would be acute effects, and respiratory problems or cancer due to the accumulation of rosin dust particles in the lungs would be a chronic effect. A given person may not experience contact dermatitis or acute asthma but still may have problems caused by chronic exposure to rosin dust.

Emily, your point about early death possibly due to any of several different factors is well taken. We're all exposed to many toxic substances which may cause cancer after chronic exposure -- cigarette smoke, pesticides, food additives, and certain molds, to name a few. Epidemiologists have a hard task trying to figure out which of many possible factors are the culprits. They do studies on large numbers of people and use statistical methods to figure out which factors are related to which effects.

I am dealing with chronic unemployment. I'm applying for science writer jobs, and the ads often say they're looking for some one with the "ability to translate complex scientific information into terms that laypeople can understand." Does anyone want to give me a recommendation?

February 13, 2005 at 07:39 PM · I would definitely recommend your resident expert, Emily!

The thread discussing this in the other forum also went into the fact that some people are alergic to rosin - they were talking about violinists and violin students, but they would know it because their skin would break out. On the other hand, I know a man who almost died by eating camembert cheese, but I'm not allergic to penicillin and regular eat that cheese.

February 14, 2005 at 04:54 AM · Um, Inge, did you mean Pauline?

You brought up another very good point. People's sensitivities to allergens and chemicals in general can vary tremnedously.

I believe that it's possible to be both silly and serious about a subject. Scott, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

February 14, 2005 at 05:20 AM · It's interesting, I've never thought of rosin getting into my lungs. I was only worried about it getting onto my tuxedo. :-) (wait, is that rosin or dandruff?)

An image comes to mind of Pigpen, only with violin rosin clouds instead of dust.

Seriously. There are so many violinists and string players practicing for five hours a day and playing concerts and just walking around in a constant cloud of rosin dust and with that much exposure if there were any real adverse effects wouldn't we know it by now? News Headlines: Most Dangerous Profession: Violinist! Three more Violinists Dropped Dead Today from Rosin Overdose...story at eleven...

Emily, do you think it would be a good idea to use rosin as a low sugar substitute for maple syrup? I will put some on my oatmeal tomorrow.

February 14, 2005 at 05:25 AM · Rosin dust:

Street names are "hairbowin" or "classical crack"

This substance is known and used by certain professionals, teachers, and enthusiasts belonging to a specific demographic in the music entertainment sector. Users often report that this naturally existing compound allows them to perform with more clarity and 'edge'. With the variety of types available, some users are defensive when it comes to their chosen brand and will take any opportunity to verbally claim its superiority over others.

Tell tail signs of excessive rosin use are:

red, itchy eyes, dry mouth and throat, sticky fingers, and an incredible bite to their bow.

users often gather in public displays of intoxication... it's best to view these 'concerts' from a respectful distance and be sure to inject rounds of placating applause lest things turn ugly.

February 14, 2005 at 06:36 AM · Oops Pauline, my apologies - yes I meant you. I've been getting names wrong all day (see Rose, Prim, and Primrose). I have the flu - is that an excuse? I thought you, I saw you in my mind's eye, and wrote Emily. My sons will tell you that I do that to their names too (switching names, I mean - I don't call them Pauline or Emily, or at least, I haven't yet.)

February 14, 2005 at 05:22 PM · Actually... I wasn't joking. It's true that rosin is used as a food additive (in chewing gum especially).

Here's a link about it.

It looks like if you have an allergy to rosin, then it shows itself as a rash of some sort... It's also in a lot of household items, and makeup. So if you were allergic to some of those things on the list in that link (makeup's an easy test), then you would probably be allergic to Violin bow rosin, or should look into it as a possiblity.

Just a thought.

February 14, 2005 at 08:02 PM · Allan, I understand your concern on these health issues, but the very basis of learning and playing this fine instrument is that the art comes first. If you sniff a bit of rosin dust, that is a small price to pay for the priviledge of playing the instrument.

Over the years, I've smelt the rosin, the strings have cut through layers of skin on my fingers, I have a large red/purple mark on my neck, my left shoulder is bent slightly forward, my hearing in the left ear has suffered through the agonising process of master high positions on the E string (a process which forced me to leave home early, but that's a story of suffering in itself finding housemates who like listening to practise in high positions), and my eyesight has suffered from squinting in orchestras when reading at a distance or in an orchestra pit. And yet, I play on.

Forget the rosin, Allan, and devote this energy towards practice until you can play scales in double harmonics. Then you can go back to thinking about the rosin!


February 15, 2005 at 01:57 AM · I know I said I wouldn't post on this thread, but I must clarify that my first response regarding cooking with rosin was written with sarcasm. I do not recommend putting rosin in any of your food (Nick). Maple syrup is much better. I will admit to eating rosin once before. But that's because I thought it was a lime lifesaver crumb. It was tacky and bitter.

February 15, 2005 at 02:28 AM · hahaha..that's hilarious

February 18, 2005 at 07:28 AM · I got serious about this issue and did some computer searches of the scientific literature. I found lots of articles about rosin used in cosmetics, pesticides, solder, and many other ubiquitous goods, but I still can't tell whether this is the same rosin that we use on our bowhairs. I also searched for "rosin AND violinist" and found five articles, each of which was about allergic or contact dermatitis, or, as one group of scientists called it, "fiddler's neck." I suppose it makes a big difference whether rosin dust falls on the fiddler's neck or the fiddle's neck. Anyway, I now know just as much as I knew before.

February 20, 2005 at 12:58 AM · uh..rosin is made from the sap from trees. i was kind of wondering the same thing about the health issues and i really dont know much at all but if maple syrup is made from the same stuff and we eat it..i really doubt rosin can kill us. and like pauline said, ubiquitous things are made from that sap too so i dont think its something we need to really worry about. or we can jsut eat it like maple syrup w/ our pancakes :p

February 20, 2005 at 08:37 AM · True story: a bunch of girls had themselves over for a "pamper fest", as we call it, painting nails and doing facials and such. No violinists were present but me. Then, out of the blue, a girl said, "Wood rosin." My ears immediately pricked up. As it turned out, she was reading the ingredients on a bottle of Squirt soda. Unbeknownst to me, a mass of innocent, unsuspecting people sipped wood rosin from cups in my very own home today! I abstained, courteously.

February 22, 2005 at 07:09 AM · Inna,

Maple syrup comes from maple trees. Most rosin comes from pine trees. Let's see, what else comes from pine trees? That's right, kids: Turpentine.

I don't know about you, but I just LOVe a nice big helping of all natural turpentine on my pancakes. Mmmmm, nature's goodness!

Or tey this one: The berries of the apple trees (apples, that is) are quite deicious. the berries of certain other trees and shrubs will KILL you.

February 23, 2005 at 12:13 AM · Emily,

I am sure the wood rosin was in trace amounts. Besides that, the squirt bottle probably said Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin.

Searching around, I found a study on Glycerol Ester of Wood rosin used in drinks.

"From these studies, it was concluded that glycerol

ester of wood rosin has no genotoxic properties; wood rosin at doses

up to 434 mg/kg of body weight (bw) per day did not induce any

treatment-related histopathological changes in a long-term study of

toxicity and carcinogenicity in Sprague-Dawley rats; and the food-

grade material was less toxic than the non-food-grade material in

13-week studies of toxicity."

and from the US Code of Federal Regulations:

"Glycerol ester of wood rosin may be safely used in food in

accordance with the following prescribed conditions:...2)It is used to adjust the density of citrus oils used in the

preparation of beverages whereby the amount of the additive does not

exceed 100 parts per million of the finished beverage."

You missed out on a perfectly good drink.

February 23, 2005 at 01:19 AM · Ah, I don't drink soda, anyway, only diet coke. I'm sure phynalalanine and aspartame are much more wholesome. ;)

February 23, 2005 at 04:02 AM · The Greeks have a wine called Retsina that is resinated and it is definitely not toxic, just intoxicating. :-)

(No wonder we're addicted to playing the violin)

February 23, 2005 at 06:10 AM · Ed, can you give me the reference for the tox study on wood rosin?

February 23, 2005 at 06:40 AM · I poked around the Internet some more and found some more info on rosin.

1. According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration, US), there are many derivatives of wood rosin (from pine trees) which can be added to food. Does that make anyone feel hungry?

2. Rosin is commonly found in solder.

3. The World Health Organization publishes International Chemical Safety Cards, and the one on rosin (colophony, gum rosin) is very interesting. It says, "PREVENT DISPERSION OF DUST! AVOID ALL CONTACT! ... Appearance: pale yellow to amber, fragments or powder, with characteristic odour. Routes of exposure: The substance can be absorbed into the body by inhalation of fumes. ... Chemical dangers: The substance decomposes on heating producing irritating fumes. [My comment: What happens when it's cooked? It is discussed as "rosin core solder." Solder gets heated, too.] Effects of long-term or repeated exposure: Repeated or prolonged contact may cause skin sensitization. Repeated or prolonged inhalation exposure may cause asthma. ... Notes: Rosin is obtained from pine trees. Rosin is available as wood rosin, gum rosin, or tall oil rosin. Anyone who has shown symptoms of asthma due to this substance should avoid all further contact with this substance." [My comment: Do you need to be an internationally recognized expert on toxicology to come up with the last sentence?]

I also got some more personal experience on the subject when I went to my local violin store yesterday. I asked the staff there about possible toxic effects of breathing rosin dust, and one fellow said, "Oh, no! Are you telling me that I'm going to die young just because I'm working here?" I asked about a low dust rosin, and he said that they had jade rosin and Clarity rosin, which is completely synthetic. I asked about the synthetic, and he didn't know much about it, but another member of the staff there said that one of their clients, who is a cellist, says it's wonderful. I was intrigued (I was a chem major in college), so I bought it. The label says that it is "super-sensitive" and "hypo-allergenic." I have no idea what it's made of. It's perfectly clear and colorless, and it feels smooth, not sticky like rosin. I tried using it on my bow, and it worked fine. I don't know whether I've increased or decreased my probable lifespan by using it.

February 23, 2005 at 10:25 AM · Wow, Pauline, your diligence absolutely astounds me. I hope it all pays off, too, and you can now live to be 102. :)

February 23, 2005 at 07:30 PM · Thanks, Emily. Right now, I just hope that my diligence will land me a job and improve my violin playing. :-)

February 23, 2005 at 09:35 PM · Emily, I earn a living, when I'm employed, researching and writing about things like this. Maybe I should ask you for a recommendation or submit my responses to this thread to potential employers as writing samples. :-)

February 25, 2005 at 01:31 AM · I applaud Allan's health concerns. Too many of us ignore such possibilities. But, Allan, I suspect and sadly say that there are many more environmental threats to you (us) than rosin dust. Nevertheless, if you don't over use rosin to the point where you are hacking and sneezing, I think you will be OK because there are no extensive reports of violinists dying off due to rosin dust. Remember: Do all things in moderation. And that goes for the rosin on your bow. I think the worst reaction could be allergenic. In that case, you may have a major problem.

February 25, 2005 at 02:07 AM · I would be more concerned about the black diesel smoke that comes out of the school buses and all the fumes from the cars ahead of you while sitting in trafic!

How about the mold spores under your carpet, the sodium Benzoate in your soda, the hormones in your meats, the pestecides in your fruits and vegetables and water!

Scary isn't it!

So the last thing you need to worry is the rosin in your bow!

Enjoy your violin, practice and live your life as if today was your last!



February 25, 2005 at 03:50 AM · I think it would be interesting to find out which, if any, diseases are more common in violinists than in other people. Likewise, what do violinists die of, and how does that compare to non-violinists?

February 28, 2005 at 02:48 PM · Actually, I frequent the forums at and I found out that Joy of Cooking had a recipe for "rosin baked potatoes" in the 1960s.


February 28, 2005 at 07:17 PM · I've been using my new synthetic, low dust rosin for almost a week now, and it works fine. The only problem is that I can't use the sight of rosin dust on the strings as an indication that I've used too much rosin. I don't think my asthma has been affected at all.

March 10, 2005 at 10:23 PM · I'm surprised that violinists

a. know so little about rosin, including the fact that some rosins include compounds such as gold -- to which some people are allergic.

b. waste so much internet space with frivolous reponses to serious questions.

March 10, 2005 at 11:40 PM · they are enjoying themselves. If you don`t like the list go elsewhere.

March 11, 2005 at 03:59 AM · I truly think that we all read the responses, and take the issues seriously - but I for one enjoy the levity. is full of bright people, and I don't think that finding a reason to laugh about an issue renders us incapable of seeing the possibility of its more serious implications!



March 11, 2005 at 07:04 AM · I love rosin. LOLLL

Especially that first stroke across the strings with all the dust flying.

The best rosin to do that is also the cheapest! Good old AB dark. Yum.



PS. Thought I'd waste some space.

June 21, 2005 at 10:39 AM · I have read the above comments with interest as I am trying to find out if it is the rosin that is causing my son to have coughing fits to the point of choking every evening since we rethread his bow and changed rosin a week ago.

I think a lot of people have missed the point of the thread. I don't think it matters that diesel feul is more carcinogenic than rosin in the long run, but I do think that if you happen to react badly to any substance, even supposedly safe ones, then it can make you suffer greatly on a day-to-day basis.

Hopefully I can find the Clarity rosin in France?

June 21, 2005 at 01:48 PM · Hi Dominique,

Often when a bow is rehaired it is overly rosined with powered rosin. For some reason many luthiers are taught that each hair needs to be throughly coated with the stuff. The powdered rosin is probably overwhelming your son.

My teacher recommends unscrewing the hair at the frog and very carefully washing the hair with a bit of mild shampoo in a basin of warm water. Followed with a good rinsing, just like you would your own hair. It's easy to do, just be sure to keep the water away from the wood. After it dries reassemble the bow and put enough rosin on to grip the hairs. This really helped my bow which returned with new hair and a raspy sound.

Hope this helps your son!


June 21, 2005 at 05:21 PM · I was also taught to rinse the hair in alcohol to clean it off. Perhaps the soap method would be milder, though many soaps might also leave an oily residue that could interefere with the sound. The alcohol certainly helps; It'd be worth a try with soap, though. Both my decent bows now need rehairing, so no real risk there...

Emily might rinse her bow hair in a fine wine, then use the resulting liquid in a chicken sauté. ;)

June 23, 2005 at 07:33 AM · I hear that rinsing hair in beer nourishes it and meks it smooth and shiny.

Deglaze with beer and reduce, scraping off any stuck-on bits. Thickened rosin sauce pairs well with halibut or salmon.

June 23, 2005 at 07:49 AM · You can call me anything except late for dinner if it includes beer.

July 16, 2008 at 11:11 PM · I think Allan's concerns are perfectly valid and that it is irrelevant if there are 1,000 graver things to worry about.

His question is just a natural one and there's nothing wrong with asking it either by mere curiosity or by genuine concern.

If my both my neighbors A and B want to kill me, the fact that A is more likely to kill me than B does not mean I have to stop being concerned about B killing me.

Anyway, the question about rosin being toxic came to my mind the very first time I put too much rosin on the bow. I was able to see the powder in the air while playing and sneezed a bit. I immediately thought about the toxicity of inhaling rosin –some years ago, back when I just started playing the violin, when I was 18.

I would very much like for scientists to address such a question, not because I'm afraid of rosin or of dying from it, but merely because I think it would be interesting to know exactly how does our body deal with inhaling it and whether it can have some long-term effects.

The fact that nobody has been KNOWN to die from rosin does not mean that nobody has actually died because of it. There are many things going on that we are not aware of; thus, ignorance and negligence, and fallacious statements such as "we would know already if rosin had any bad effects" or "no bad effects have been reported" do not speak, at all, in favor of rosin's innocuousness. We have simply failed to address this question and until we do so in a quantitative way and in a controlled scientific context, it will remain open and unanswered, and the concern for what rosin might do to us valid.

I’m not saying we should stop playing the violin or be afraid of rosin, but rather just conscious that we don’t ‘KNOW’ exactly how it is affecting us. There might be tons of other ‘urgent’ matters to worry about, and so what? How do they make THIS matter ‘inexistent’?

Sure, as someone proposed, rosin might even do us good! So why not find out? It might be the cure for lung cancer. Or if we inhale the right dose it might get people ‘up there’ sooner than other ‘substances’.


July 17, 2008 at 03:58 PM · I have nothing new to add to the thread, but a few "me toos".

I've noticed that Tartini rosins are very nearly dust-free, a good thing in my book.

I have a copy of Joy of Cooking that describes cooking potatos in a vat of hot resin, and often wondered how they tasted, and where one could get enough resin to cook potatos, and whether heating said resin on a stove would be a terrible fire hazard. No answers on this front, only questions.

I note that most of the old violin soloists, who presumably fiddled for many hours every day of their lives, don't seem to have died young. Of course in today's more polluted and toxic environment, adding rosin dust to the mix might prove to be more harmful that simple exposure to only one potentially harmful substance. But think back to Victorian England, especially London, where air pollution was the order of the day. Were violinists expiring at a greater rate than the general population? I suspect not.

I personally don't think that long-term exposure to this dust, especially if using the more dust-free rosins available, is particvularly harmful. A simple paper dust mask might be in order if extensive exposure is in the cards, but when one considers that we exist in a fairly gritty environment anyway - ever seen electron micrographs of dust mites? Snorting them might seem really disgusting, but lord knows how many have entered your lungs by the time you're old enough to read - rosin dust would have to be way low on the scale of things to worry about.

The important thing to remember is that average lifespans seem to be increasing, and we're none of us going to get out of this alive anyway.

February 9, 2014 at 01:39 PM · I am offended at the callousness of some of you. I have recently returned to the violin after completing my career in accounting. I wasn't good enough to be a pro. That being said, I have dealt with lung issues during my 60 year life. I think young people are more resilient to things that can can harm us old ones. But I must tell all of you that this is not a farcical matter. I purchased Jade rosin and within a day or so began to wonder if I was coming down with pneumonia. The I had the thought of the dust that I was cleaning off of my old Czech fiddle. Well, it has been three days and I have miraculously completely recovered. BTW, I am not allergic to poison ivy. I can pick it with my bare hands. I don't make jokes about people who are allergic to it. I have a word for people with no empathy, with their heads up where the sun don 't shine. And Y'all knowhateyemthinken.

February 9, 2014 at 05:39 PM · As an industrial chemist I’ve worked with rosin and rosin derivatives for 40 years. I’m also the inventor of Clarity and thought I’d respond to some of the comments.

“I am especially interested in the Clarity supersensitive rosin. Many have recommended it to allergy sufferers; … It is made from "a synthetic hydrocarbon resin compound. That sounds petroleum-based to me.”

Clarity is based on a fully hydrogenated hydrocarbon resin that is petroleum based. This same resin is used in hundred million pound quantities every year to make adhesives for medical bandages and baby diapers. It has been extensively vetted and tested for safety and is approved by the FDA for direct food contact. I’d rank it very low in the list of things to worry about. See US Patent 6,906,138 for more details if you are interested.

“Petroleum is a known carcinogen.”

Paraffin wax, mineral oil, and sandwich bags also come from petroleum. I think they are relatively safe materials.

“I have never known anyone to die from life threatening rosin...”

My previous employer used a rail car (160,000 lbs) of rosin and rosin derivatives every week to make adhesives. For many years I was a technical R&D manager and would get at least one phone call every year from an emergency room physician asking for the ingredients of an adhesive because the patient was suffering from a severe allergic reaction. A few times it was described to me as anaphylactic shock, which I think of as life threatening.

Rosin allergies are common, as are allergies to pine trees, and even if one starts out unaffected, it’s possible to develop an allergy after prolonged exposure. Once sensitized, it’s a life-long problem.

The purpose of developing Clarity was to make an improved violin bow rosin, not something more benign. Its hypoallergenic nature was simply intrinsic, but it has turned out to be an important property for many people. I’ve corresponded with many people, some professionals, who had given up playing because of their rosin allergy and who now could continue their career.

“I wonder whether the rosin it discussed was violin bow rosin, since violin bow rosin was not on the long list of products cited. The article names the major chemical component of rosin (abietic acid), and this would be useful information if it's applicable to violin bow rosin.”

As someone pointed out, there are three types of rosin which differ by their source: gum rosin (live tree sap), wood rosin (dead tree stumps), and tall oil rosin (by-product of paper making). All three rosins are mostly the same and primarily comprised of abietic acid, molecules related to abietic acid, dozens of other miscellaneous chemicals. Abietic acid is the main allergen.

All three rosins are used to make bow rosin. Aside from marketing gimmicks like gold flakes, etc., the big difference among commercial bow rosins is their hardness which can be measured by the glass transition temperature and softening point.

Clarity is the only bow rosin on the market that is not based on tree rosin and abietic acid.

February 9, 2014 at 08:26 PM · Tom, maybe you can answer a question? I think I have weak cilia - I gave up smoking 14 years ago and stuff still comes up. I've been using Geipel - is yours better? Does it matter considering my 'condition'?

February 9, 2014 at 09:12 PM · Bud, I don't know if Clarity is "better" than Geipel, but I do know it is less of an allergen. The one sample of Geipel that I looked at was based on natural rosin so it should be about as allergenic as any other rosin based bow rosin. Maybe Geipel makes its hypoallergenic claims because it is softer and doesn't cause as much dust.

If you mean "better" in the sense of playability, that's very subjective. Clarity for violin is on the hard side so if you want more grab, you should look at the cello grade which is softer.

February 12, 2014 at 05:42 AM · In the medical field, we cannot cure death, only put it off. I've had to learn to see things this way in order to cope with the world.

February 13, 2014 at 08:17 PM · Hate to throw in a downer but my grandad died at the age of 40 from inhaling tree resin whilst working in a lumber mill. That was before health and safety - better hope they don't start peering our way!

February 13, 2014 at 09:31 PM · I think it's more of a spray.

February 17, 2014 at 09:18 AM · Perhaps it is only an allergy that I personally have. I highly doubt that it is, I started using Jade Rosin and became sicker and sicker thinking that I was coming down with pneumonia. And I started having circulatory problems as well. As soon as I stop using the Jade Rosin and began using a hypoallergenic brand I started to recover. I am now in good health. I recently tested my hypothesis. I rosined up an old bow and played some scales. After a few minutes I began coughing again, feeling as if I was about to have an asthma attack. I have discarded the Jade rosin of course. I don't feel that the new hypoallergenic rosin performs as well though. Little choice for me personally. By the way, I can actually pick poison ivy with my bare hands. But but when you consider what rosin is made from it makes sense that it could be toxic. After all. Turpentine is made from fir trees.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal
Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings


Violin Lab



Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine