Do wooden pallets contain harmful chemicals?

Wooden Pallets: Are They Really Toxic?

Wooden pallets are a popular packaging material. There is currently even a shortage of Euro pallets, which is why the value per pallet has risen to over 10 euros in some cases. Wooden pallets are also in demand as a building material for inexpensive garden furniture, which can now be found in many gardens.

Again and again in online discussions there are warnings that such pallets would be toxic due to the pesticide treatment. We did some research to see if that was true.

Are wooden pallets suitable for the garden?

Basically, the idea of ​​recycling or upcycling sounds like a good thing. Instead of simply throwing away or burning packaging material, it is given a new purpose. There are almost unlimited ideas and uses for these pallets.

Raised beds, garden loungers, chairs, tables and much more are built from wooden pallets in many gardens. Many garden owners seem to be very ignorant of this raw material. Most of the pictures and videos published on the Internet about wooden pallets in the garden include at least one comment warning of the pesticides that are believed to have been used to treat the wood. But is that actually true?

A branded seal should be found on each pallet. On the left is the IPPC symbol (International Plant Protection Convention) in the form of an ear of corn. To the right of this you will first find the country code and sometimes also a region code (country code according to ISO 3166). This is followed by an official registration number.

IPPC brand on a euro pallet. This pallet comes from Lithuania (LT) and has been heat treated (HT).

For those who want to continue using the palette, however, the symbol at the bottom of the brand is important. Here should be the abbreviation HTPCP-HTFCC-HT or KD to be found! HT stands for "Heat Treatment", ie for heat treatment.

The following abbreviations are possible:

  • HT: Heat Treatment
  • PCP-HT: Heat treatment (Portable Chamber Process)
  • FCC-HT: Heat treatment (Fast Container Connector)
  • KD: Heat Treatment (Kiln-Dried)
  • MB: methyl bromide or bromomethane (methyl bromide)

Methyl bromide is a cheap, colorless, and easy to use gas. It damages biological organisms and attacks the ozone layer. The pallets or even entire loads of goods are fumigated in the container or in a tent. Treatment with methyl bromide has been banned in the EU since 2010. In some other countries such as. Germany was already banned before that.

In other countries such as the USA, China, etc., the use of bromomethane and many other pesticides, mainly insecticides and fungicides, is still allowed. You should therefore refrain from using wooden pallets from other EU countries. It is also advisable to stay away from very old European pallets.

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Are heat-treated pallets really safe?

Heat-treated wooden pallets are made of wood with no extras. So it should be able to be used without hesitation. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with exercising caution, as the pallets are often used several times. If you have received floor panels on such a wooden pallet, barrels with chemicals could also have been transported beforehand. The pallets may have been in dirty containers and warehouses beforehand. Unfortunately, there are also counterfeit Euro pallets - these can often be recognized by the missing seal or by strange-looking seals.

It is therefore very possible that harmful substances have leaked or the pallets have been contaminated during storage. If there are strange stains on the pallet, if they smell funny or if the seals look fake, you should keep your hands off them to be on the safe side.

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