Are Pallets Safe to Reuse?

Now you know. Pallet parts have names.

As a fan and proponent of reusing pallets in building projects, such as chicken coops and compost containers, I’m often asked if I think they are safe to use given that shippers and manufacturers fumigate them with pesticides.

In the United States quarantine regulations require that pallets be treated with methyl bromide, a pesticide being phased out due to its adverse effects on the ozone layer. According to Mary Howland Technical Service Manager at Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, a supplier of methyl bromide,

Methyl bromide products are restricted use pesticides. A certified applicator license is required to purchase and use these products and strict adherence to label directions/requirements is mandatory. Under normal fumigation conditions methyl bromide is a gas and when the pallets are properly aerated according to label instructions, virtually no methyl bromide residue remains on the pallets and wood materials.

Now I’m not a methyl bromide fan and I find it’s use as a soil fumigant in agricultural applications appalling.  But I’m not too worried about reusing pallets. That being said, a Tylenol recall was linked to the use of tribromophenol (TBP) to fumigate pallets. Though, depending on if you believe the trade organizations behind wood pallets or plastic pallets (they hate each other), the Tylenol recall may have had nothing to do with TBP which is not used to fumigate pallets in the US.

So, as with most issues on this blog, no easy answer. But I’m still not concerned about using pallets as a building material.

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9 Comments

  1. I usually use the pallets for outdoor use only, and when I do use them I leave the pallets outside for a year to weather and remove any nasty residues that may be on them. This might not be the best idea but it would seem to reduce anything lingering on the wood.

  2. I’m OK with reusing pallets as well. Mainly because if I weren’t, I’d have to disassemble a raised bed, two tables and my wood storage shed. That’s gonna require some pretty solid evidence.

  3. Thank you for addressing this. I also wonder about reusing tires. I love the idea of reuse but don’t like the idea of toxins in the garden obviously. Guess there is no easy answer.

  4. I can’t, for the life of me, find the blog post I read several months ago but apparently pallets marked with “HT” are heat treated. Not sure how readily available these are but it’s worth a shot.

  5. My hubby is a truck driver and after going with him a few times it amazed me how little protection things we use have between them and the pallets. Sometimes it’s just a piece of paper. Other times there’s nothing. This is anything from food containers to food products to cardboard boxes and bubble wrap that things ship in. Anything that is trucked (which is almost anything you buy at the stores) at some point in time comes in contact with these. So I do feel safe using them. Thet’ve already been in contact with most items in my home that I have not made myself or gown myself. So we reuse what we do get. From work benches to shelves to out door raised beds.

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