You can find wooden pallet tutorials in many places online, from individual blogs to home improvement articles. According to online recommendations, these weathered and affordable building materials are ideal for building anything from outdoor planters to custom designed kitchen backsplashes. While the finished product looks nice in online pictures, you may want to think twice before using wooden pallets to decorate the interior of your home.
Health Implications of Upcycling Wooden Pallets
From 2009-2011, wooden pallets were in the spotlight for a very different reason from upcycling ideas. They were associated with recalls in the food and pharmaceuticals sectors. Tylenol recalled several shipments of painkillers that wooden pallets may have contaminated. Romaine lettuce was also recalled in certain levels after tests confirmed E. coli in the popular salad vegetable. E. coli was also present in 10% of wooden pallets used to ship food.
In addition to dangerous pathogens such as E.coli, listeria, and salmonella, wooden pallets may also harbor health hazards such as:
- Mold and mold spores
- Pathogens from bird droppings, insects, and rodents
- Carcinogens such as formaldehyde
- The toxic pesticide, methyl bromide
- Unknown toxins spilled during freight transportation activities
Unfortunately, what you may not see could jeopardize your health. Pallets travel long distances and spend time in the weather, on various modes of transportation, and sitting in warehouses or outdoors. After the shipment process is over, a pallet could sit abandoned in a yard or storage facility for several months or years until someone decides to use it in a DIY project.
From the outside, the wooden pallet may appear weathered and perfect for your new bathroom towel rack. Without taking certain precautions, you can’t trust a wooden pallet for projects inside or outside the home.
How to Tell if a Wooden Pallet is Safe to Use
If you are interested in using wooden pallets to cut down on home renovation costs or to get that aged wood look, here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of contracting an illness from your next project:
1. Look at the stamps on the pallet.
Do you see an IPPC stamp with “MB” anywhere on it? If so, it was treated with methyl bromide, a known toxic substance. Do not use any pallet with this label. IPPC stamps with “HT” for “heat-treated” were not exposed to chemicals.
2. Check the pallet for spills.
If you notice any stains, oils, or other substances on the surface of the pallet, use a different pallet. Unless you can test the pallet in the lab, you may not know what spilled on the surface, and it could harm you or others.
3. Try to source local pallets so you can confirm their life cycles.
If you get your pallets from a local plant or manufacturing facility, you may have a better chance of understanding where the pallet spent time and what it carried.
4. Cleaning, painting, and sealing.
Some DIY sites recommend thoroughly cleaning the pallet and then painting, staining, or sealing it to protect your family from potentially harmful substances. These treatments may or may not provide full protection. Wooden pallets can soak in substances that may seep out at a later date.
5. Do not burn.
Most pallet wood undergoes some type of treatment making it unsafe to burn indoors or out. Chemicals released during the burning process can threaten your health and the environment. Instead, take potentially unsafe pallet wood to a pallet recycler or the landfill.
If you can’t confirm the pallet’s safety using one of these methods, find another DIY project or use the pallet for outdoor projects that do not involve growing food. Illnesses from pallet hazards can cause acute and life-threatening symptoms. It isn’t worth the risk.
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/tylenol- recall-confirms- congress-fda- must-regulate-wood- pallets-to- prevent-threats- to-us- food-drug- supply-80407777.html