Introduction: PALLET SAFETY

I personally love using Pallets for projects. Many people do, but it is very important to know what you are using. Pallets are sometimes treated with very powerful chemicals.

So here I will show you what to look for when getting pallets to make sure they are safe for reuse.

Feel free to link this instructuble to any of your pallet project if you don't to rewrite the info yourself!

If you have any additional information you think would be worth mentioning, please let me know. I think it's really important to share this kind of information, especially as pallets are being used more & more for DIY projects. If possible site sources too !

Step 1: STAMPS OR MARK

Generally pallets are stamped on both sides.

Codes and what they mean.

IPPC: International Plant Protection Convention, this certifies that the wood has been treated by approved mesures. This does not mean no chemicals though. If you can't see an IPPC stamp, it is not recommended for reuse.

Treatments

HT: Heat Treating, this is what you should look for. It is a treatment where the wood is heated to the minimum core temperature of the specific to the wood type. It is not harmfull to your health so safe to use.

MB: Methyl-Bromide Fumigation, this is a powerful pesticide used to treat the wood. Though a lot of countries have banned the use of bromomethane in the early 2000s, you can still find it in some places. DO NOT USE MB MARKED PALLETS.

European pallets are sometimes only marked with EUR or EPAL. Europe does not allow chemical treatment. If it is only marked EPAL, its A-ok! But EUR is from the old system so you might still want to be careful with it. The best is to find some with the full stamps.

IF ITS NOT ACCEPTABLE FOR PROJECTS, YOU SHOULDN'T BURN THEM EITHER.

Step 2: COLORED PALLETS & STAINS

Colored pallets are not recommended for indoor use. Traces of formaldehyde or other resins can be found on them. Go for the Unpainted ones if you can.

If there are greasy, oily stains on the pallet or unidentified products on it avoid using them.

Step 3: SOURCES & USEFULL LINKS

1001Pallets : Loads of clear info on pallet safety

IPPC : Info on import regulation

TreeHugger : North American pallet safety

ISPM 15 : International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures

Wood Database : Woodworking Dangers

Wood Database : Wood Allergies & Toxicity

Comments

author
StandsWithABeer (author)2014-12-11

IMHO, since many pallet projects are coated somehow, the danger is minimized; not eliminated, mind you--but minimized. Especially for pallet projects used inside the home in enclosed sparsely ventilated areas. The major danger is inhalation of the dirt-dust and treated wood-dust as one uses power tools (efficient dust-creators) on the pallet wood itself during fabrication. If you are sawing and sanding pallet wood without dust protection, you are courting disaster. Inhaling this stuff has both short and long-term effects, none of them good. Some pallets get soaked in one chemical and re-soaked with another. An irradiated pallet may be fatal. Use caution in lieu of abstinence.

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cfuse (author)StandsWithABeer2014-12-13

I'm not entirely sure that irradiated wood (for pest control) is any worse than ordinary - they cook it with a bit of gamma radiation for a short period. This is a very common industrial process and is frequently used on food items and food utensils/storage. I'm confident of the safety of that.

If you are talking about pallets that might have been used in nuclear industries and that could have been contaminated with radioactive substances - those pallets never leave their site's custody, they are treated as all the other nuclear waste is.

author
StandsWithABeer (author)cfuse2014-12-13

Yar... I agree w/you; however, to avoid being overly verbose--the operative word is "never".

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Dani_W (author)2017-02-11

Looking for advice! We have two pallets to use for a bed base and have checked markings are all safe, but a bit concerned about some patches of black dots (pic attached). Is this mould? The pallets are dry, so do we still need to get rid of it? What is the best way?! Thanks in advance, fellow makers!

image.jpeg
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bmurphy21 (author)2016-08-07

Any dust is unsafe in volume so use of appropriate dust masks is essential when cutting up anything which produces dust.

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KevinRoehler (author)2016-07-28

My workplace has hundred of free pallets. They all have different stamps. I believe this has little or nothing to do with the quality of the pallet, or causing a contrasting difference in health. They want the pallets to be sturdy and not harbor bugs. There are many methods for accomplishing this. There are literally NO-NONE-ZERO deaths linked to burning, or using a specifically treated pallet. I assume that these allegations of people being sick are completely made up. Just like marijuana was deemed a health hazard by the government, because it cures too many things, and would cost the gov. money on people needing less medication. Pallet companies want you to buy more pallets in the same way. Pallet companies start these falsehoods, so people won't reuse them, and will have to buy more. I'm not theorizing a conspiracy, BUT I refuse to believe there is any danger until it's documented. Until then, it's not a fact right? Pallets companies would also get sued if people got sick using them. End of discussion, unless somebody has actual evidence that chemicals not only stay with the pallet, BUT ALSO get people sick. Great topic.

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WtF2 (author)2016-07-20

need pallets ??? contact www.palletdude.com

he has a ton of like new pallets for your DIY projects......

author
hjapflash202 (author)2016-05-11

Do you know a good place to get wood pallets for cheap?

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WtF2 (author)hjapflash2022016-07-20

www.palletdude.com

pallets are in new condition, all Heat Treated

author
NatashaH14 (author)2015-12-20

thanks alot I went to er come to find our yes all that mess had gotten into my lungs and caused me to end up with phenmomia my husband will no longer be building inside the home thank goodness hoping to get better soon and get over this once again thanks for the advice

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ChuckG4 (author)2015-09-17

So before reading this I made a shoerack from mb pallets, luckily the dust didn't make me sick, but is this something I should remove from my home? I stained and varnished it so won't that keep the chemicals sealed in?

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asbeaule (author)ChuckG42015-12-20

Heya, sorry for the late response.

Ideally yes, there is always a higher risk with MB pallets. Chances are that it wont affect you, as any "fumes" would be heavier then air and would be low to the ground. But if you have pets or young children, they would be at a risk because they are closer to the ground.

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NatashaH14 (author)2015-12-19

my husband has been using old pallet's he gets from scrap yards building furniture inside our home wit saws I have asthma and am very sick now could this have anything to do with what he has been doing in our home?

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asbeaule (author)NatashaH142015-12-20

Heya!

I am not an expert, but I would imagine it is possible. Even when sanded and cleaned the wood could still be moldy if it had been exposed to rain. If it was chemically treated (MB), it could really make you sick.

It might not be the pallets either, but if you have them places near your face for long perioss of time (bedhead) or in contact with food, it could be worth removing them for a few weeks and see if you feel any better. You don't need to throw them out straight away as it might not be the cause of your illness.

Let me know how it goes! I could add it to the instructable if its relevant.

author
Scottap74 (author)2015-09-20

chemical treated???

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odmon (author)2015-07-09

I have been in the pallet business for 40 years and have loved working in an industry that is highly "green" that produces a product that is readily recycled. All pallets that are produced are safe at the point of manufacture and their safety is determined what is shipped on them. The current requirement of heat treatment does nothing to enhance the safety of the pallet. Heat treatment only assures the country receiving the pallet or box that it has undergone heat of 133 degrees for 30 minutes to kill bugs. It is treatment so as to halt wood pest from entering their country. The best assurance of safety is to ask what was shipped on the pallet. Stay away from chemicals of any kind. If there is signs of light mold. Wash it with bleach to kill the growth. And always stay away from pallets that are marked as ownership by someone asking for return of that pallet.

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buck2217 (author)2015-06-26

thanks useful info

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LydiaT2 (author)2015-04-06

I'm so glad you put this up! I have been worried for people's health when they use the toxic pallet wood to make dining room tables, outdoor picnic tables or kitchen work tables/isles around their foods. And its still very scarey to think of people sleeping on beds made of them, sitting on chairs made of them, or using them to make side tables and coffee tables. I read a long time ago that you shouldn't use them even to frame vegetable gardens because their toxicity leaches into the garden dirt that your vegetables feed from. Thank you for your very useful and life saving info!

author
mtairymd (author)2015-03-14

Thanks for the info. I referenced your link.

https://www.instructables.com/id/Harvest-Basket-Gar...

author
timbolive (author)2015-01-16

dose anyone know if it's safe to use pallets only stamped " chemson 3006"? iv looked on the Internet and I'm not sure

author
dr_peru (author)2015-01-03

thanks for this very informative instructable!

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Vyger (author)2014-12-22

Looks like you generated a bit of controversy over what one might have thought was a topic that had no issues. I think part of the problem is that situations vary greatly depending on where you live. I live in a sparsely populated rural area. It makes a difference. For example most shipping pallets dead end here, That means that it costs so much to return them that they are usually considered one way packaging. They stack up at the stores and the owners usually ask for people to take them away so they don't end up in the landfill. It is a waste but an economic reality.

But I have not always lived here. I worked for companies that saved and returned pallets for the deposits on them. I also work for a company that hired people to repair and rebuild pallets because they used them for storage in their warehouse and the size was specific to their shelf rack system. The only transporting those did was limited to within the warehouse.

So really it all depends on the circumstances where you live.

I currently burn a lot of pallets in my wood stove. This fall a friend helped me and we brought 2 dump trailers full of them. They came from a big pile at the hardware store. I am not really to thrilled with burning them. They are not the best fuel as they are thin and burn fast and hot. But that makes them great for starting fires since once they are hot you can add larger wood and it catches right away. I hate dealing with all the nails left in the ashes. But then, they are free and my burning them gets some use out of them rather than them just being buried at the landfill.

I do save the better wood from them. As I cut them up I look for boards that are straight and not split . Those gets put aside for projects. I have no problem planning down an oak or maple board for a project. Since many of the boards are weathered I have learned to identify many of the woods by smell. Some might think its weird that I pick up a fresh cut board and smell it but that is one sure way of identifying what wood it is.

In terms of burning wood with chemicals in it, its not a problem for me. I stack the stuff intended for the stove outside until it is burned. My stove is air tight, in fact it is rated as being more than 70 % efficient. I don't get smoke in the house from it. So it doesn't matter if the wood has something in it. Actually most lumber is treated in some way. There are adhesives and preservatives in much of it. But a hot fire destroys most of those chemical compounds. In addition my nearest neighbor is more than 1/4 mile away so my smoke is not a health hazard to anyone, its unlikely they can even smell it. Now someone will disagree with that, but again, it all depends on where you live and what is available. I have believed in being "green" since before it was popular. My first instructable was published for a going green contest. I love wood and wood working as many of my projects have demonstrated. It is possible to balance all these things and make use of a resource like discarded pallets safely. You just need to use your head more than anything else and be reasonable about it all. Find knowledgeable local people to help you.

author
Jgrant1234 (author)2014-12-19

You rarely ever see a mb marked pallets pallets pretty much all heat treated

author
Jgrant1234 (author)2014-12-19

We have pallets marked epal on the left ippc in the middle and on the right eur

author
Jgrant1234 (author)Jgrant12342014-12-19

They're also labeled ht for heat treated and the epal pallets are made out of very nice wood which is the best for building stuff with

author
ar_caver (author)2014-12-14

Although methyl-bromide, also known as bromethane, is an ozone depleting chemical and is very dangerous to handle, I would not hesitate to use a pallet that was stamped as having been treated with it. With a boiling point of 38.2°F (3.5°C)the gas should be completely volitized out of the wood long before you acquire the pallet, unless of course you live in an area that is very cold throughout the entire year and the fumigation was done locally.

The real dangers of working with reclaimed wood would come from working with sharp tools, exposure to finishing products, wood allergies, and the posibility the pallet was used to transport something of a hazerdous nature that spilled and was absorbed into the wood.

author
windshadow (author)2014-12-13

Hi:

Thanks for the information. I always wondered why palettes could be out in the weather and resist rot.

I will look for the markings before I do a project involving palettes.

author
ZaneEricB (author)2014-12-12

Great stuff! I Aadd your page to one of my projects! Wish you had been around with this when i compiled my other project. But Thank you !!!

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KROKKENOSTER (author)2014-12-12

Thanks for the info. Here in South Africa most pallets that I encountered were made out of S.A.Pinewood and a pallet does not lay around for long then it becomes smoke and ashes

author
cwolfe13 (author)2014-12-10

it should also be noted that if you are take a pallet without asking you may end up in jail for several years or hit with fines upwards of 50000$ for just one pallet. please ask before you take people.

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chadfluegge (author)cwolfe132014-12-11

Two comments. 1) sources for your claims...(I'm not saying you're wrong. I'd just like to see what you're basing this claim on.) 2) Commas save lives... ;)

author

Well to be honest, it'd be good to ask before you take people as well!

author
weldor (author)chadfluegge2014-12-11

Some pallets carry a deposit on them that must be paid if the pallet is not returned to the point of origin. They may have a company name stenciled on the side as well. A new pallet that is all oak construction can run a company upwards of $40.

author
chadfluegge (author)weldor2014-12-11

I concur, 100%, weldor; however, stealing a single pallet would likely only result in a suit in small claims court. I highly doubt that the end result would be several years in the slammer or a $50,000 fine. Let me be clear, though, I am not condoning theft...

author
natere21 (author)2014-12-12

When working pallets (breakdown, cutting, sawing, sanding, etc)

1. Wear gloves

2. Wear eye protection.

3. Wear a dust mask

Should be ok to go! Great info btw.

author
jca245 (author)2014-12-11

In the course of recycling materials for projects safety is often overlooked. This is good information and thank you for sharing. Another issue is that when I started woodcarving an older, wiser carver told me to be careful of certain imported woods as the dust from these can be at the least, irritating, and even fatal in some cases.

It was mentioned that pallets from overseas are made with different woods so I figured I would mention this also.

Take care all

author
asbeaule (author)jca2452014-12-11

Do you know why the wood was irratating? Was it the type of wood or the way it was treated? Any additional info would be great, If its relevent I will add it to the instructable. It is so important to know what were working with. It wasn't until someone pointed it out to me that I realised how harmfull some materials like pallets could be !

author
asbeaule (author)Michael0132014-12-11

thanks these are very interesting pages, I've added them.

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gravityisweak (author)2014-12-11

Around where I work, there are massive stacks of pallets that say "FREE WOOD" all of them are relatively new. It appears that shipments come in with them and the pallettes are immediately put outside for people to grab. All of them are labeled HT. (the good stuff)

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asbeaule (author)gravityisweak2014-12-11

Where is this magical place?!

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Michael013 (author)asbeaule2014-12-11

At my workplace too. A guy collects most of the HT ones as free firewood for the elderly.

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swaxman (author)2014-12-11

All the pallet projects at my house are : Masonary Pallets used for transporting bricks etc. Only the best 20mm timber is used. No MDFB, No Ply Board, No MDPB. and NO Cuts : I refuse to cut or dismantle pallets because if you look hard enough theres a pallet in just about any size. note : shopping baskets used for storage shelves

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nhampto9 (author)swaxman2014-12-11

Recycled & rustic is one thing. Looking like a warehouse is something else.

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swaxman (author)2014-12-11

I like your Style ,pitty others cannot fathom the hazardous potentially carcenogenic risks associated with using any Third World Product. IMPORTANT :I used to remove asbestos roofs etc , the only way to safely remove and store the sheets ( ie pallets) is too apply Pva Glue via brush or spray bottle to the entire surface :;; this creates a watertight : air tight seal encasing the hazardous material.

author
stevoreno (author)2014-12-11

Thanks so much for this! Some guys at work think that it is ok to set hot steel right off the burntable onto treated wood. They think it makes a nice campfire smell inside the building. LOLOL

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jscanlan (author)2014-12-11

Thanks for the info, very important. Sometimes you can get wood used to crate things -- motorcycles- I got a piece of sandalwood off once.

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weldor (author)2014-12-11

He also built our garden shed with the timber from the (HUGE) pallets that the new printing presses came on. Pretty much all but the siding and shingles was pallet sourced. That is what happens when you have a dad that was born in 1928. The depression and WWII taught him to be resourceful. The shed is still standing and dad is bent and gray and walks a bit slower but I still remember his answer when as a kid i asked him why he used pallets for everything,"they're free, that's why."

author
weldor (author)2014-12-11

He also built our garden shed with the timber from the (HUGE) pallets that the new printing presses came on. Pretty much all but the siding and shingles was pallet sourced. That is what happens when you have a dad that was born in 1928. The depression and WWII taught him to be resourceful. The shed is still standing and dad is bent and gray and walks a bit slower but I still remember his answer when as a kid i asked him why he used pallets for everything,"they're free, that's why."

author
weldor (author)2014-12-11

Before this build with pallets craze started, my dad worked for the local newspaper. On weekends he would work overtime repairing pallets and building "new" ones out of spare parts. Stuff he couldn't use he brought home and we heated our house with it. That was back in the 1970's.

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