This morning a reader alerted us to the possible dangers of some wood shipping pallets, of toxic chemicals leaching from treated woods (required by law to prevent insect infestations, although not all treatments involve chemicals), or of contamination by e-coli and other pathogens (a bi-product of being used to transport food or being exposed to animals and birds). Although we recommended using new wood pallets, we’ve discovered that these can be subject to chemical treatments as well.

Now we’re trying to find out a) where to get wood pallets that have been treated by heat alone, without pressure-treating (another heat-treating process which involves serious chemicals) and b) if it is possible to seal recycled wood pallets ourselves by painting, polyurethaning etc to mitigate any dangers from pressure-treated or chemically fumigated wood. We’ll write a post as soon as we get to the bottom of the issue. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to be circumspect about how you use pallets, unless your research shows otherwise.

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12 replies on “ps: some possible dangers of wood shipping pallets

  1. I’m not sure if this applies to pallets or not so take it for what it’s worth. The only wood that I know is treated with pesticides is flooring in intermodal shipping containers. Furthermore the only containers treated are those used in and out of Australia for “The Australian Quarantine.” I have not come across any pallets that appear treated, but that is not to say they don’t exist, and pallets are not my business.

  2. We’re still trying to get to the bottom of this. It seems that these regulations are mostly for international pallets, and fumigation is one option among several to prevent infestations. We’ll keep you posted when we know.

  3. We get stacks of pallets left outside my building and I usually take the ones that come from Europe because they have a stamp HT (Heat Treated) on the side indicating it’s been treated by Heat only

  4. I can’t believe that it took this long for someone to post the issue, since it had to be obvious that any recycled object that has been left out in the weather before beginning its new life had potential problems. Mice and other rodents running all over the item; possible spillage from whatever the item might have held, etc., etc. If you are someone that is really into absolutely purity, you’d better be rich. Those of us who recycle and reuse out of financial need, CLEAN the item, and then CLEAN the item again, before turning it into whatever our imagination deems.

  5. I can’t believe that it’s taken so long for someone to write what you wrote – to even think of it. Thank you!

  6. The USDA strictly enforces the SWP mandate. No untreated SWP (solid wood packing) is allowed entry into the US. This includes pallets, crates, blocks of wood used for blocking freight in an intermodal ocean container. If non-compliant packing material is found in an international shipment, the responsibility (cost) of either destroying the entire shipment (not just the packing material) or exporting back to the country of origin falls to the person or company who imported it. The Asian Long Horn beetle infestation was traced back to the pallets used for a shipment from mainland China to Chicago. The Emerald Ash Borer is another example of an invasive species being introduced into the US via international cargo transportation. If I make this pallet bed (love the lighting!) I will purchase new, heat treated pallets and use a sealing paint (such as Kilz) before assembly.

  7. Hi, thanks for this info. Where did you find it? ….whatever the case, I’m with you. I’d start fresh, given, especially for a bed.

  8. What about just using a pallet I got from cash n carry to make some signs with? Do I need to do anything special with it first?

  9. If you SEARCH shipping pallets on ‘improvised life’ you’ll find “The Scoop on Safe Shipping Pallets”…and other essential info for dealing with found ones.

  10. husband has triangular chunks of wood from packaging from USA, with US, HT, DUN, PPC, audited by TP on them, we want to use in our log burner, will they be ok?

  11. I couldn’t say. I’d try to hunt down the symbols on the internet to see what they mean.

  12. I found this article after finding that I am allergic to the pallets we use for my company. I wear gloves when using the pallets however the chemical is transferable. If the pallet runs on my clothes and then I touch that spot and then my skin I will blister up in that spot. I currently have finger print clusters on my arm and blisters on my forehead from wear I wiped the sweat from my brow. One time the blisters got infected with Impitigo. If it can’t be avoided then I might need to find a new job.

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