Toxic Exposure: The Danger of Repurposing Pallets

Aug 30, 2010 by

Whilst repurposing is Poetic Home’s middle name, I must issue a warning about wood pallets and their potential toxicity.  I was planning on repurposing wood pallets as bookshelves for my son’s nursery, but my maternal instinct had me research the safety of the wood — and it turns out, wood pallets could be incredibly toxic for your health!

In fact, the pallets could be treated with chemical pesticides, fungicides, and preservatives.  Even worse, according to Wikipedia, “imported palletized goods are routinely fumigated with highly toxic pesticides.”  And in a CBS news report that is worth viewing, more than one third of wood pallets have been found to be unsanitary, and experts believe these pallets can be making millions of people sick.

Remember the recent Tylenol recall that made some people vomit and very ill?  It turns out it was a chemical reaction from the treatment of the wood pallets on which the bottles and packaging materials were shipped that made all those people sick, as reported by Material Handling Management. Specifically, the chemical treatment on the wood pallets was 2,4,6-Tribonoanisole (TBA), which has “been identified as an environmental contaminant…used as a fungicide and a wood preservative,” according to Only Science, and that not enough research has been conducted on the toxicity of TBA to humans (read: BPA, phatlates, and all the other chemicals we’ve recently “discovered” is dangerous, especially to children.)

Some industry advocates state that many wood pallets are treated simply with heat, and not with chemicals — but why take the risk?  If bottles of Tylenol were that easily contaminated by the chemical reactions on wood pallets, why bring those pallets directly into your home?

Could you please help spread the word? I’ve seen too many repurposing projects involving pallets, especially in children’s rooms and even as bed frames for kids, and in good conscience, we must get the word out to protect our health and the future of our little ones.

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  1. Ewww! Thank you so much for informing us!

  2. I was really thinking about doing this – a pallet from a delivery has been sitting on the side of the house for a long while…but something kept saying are you sure it is OK – great info and when I do my project and post the tutorial, I will be sure to mention this and link to your blog if that is OK.

  3. jen

    I’ve seen so many diy’s using pallets lately! I will link to this too!

  4. grace thank you for this info. yes, i had seen many re-purposed projects with pallets as well. and the bed frame for children. thank you for sharing. we have to make the efforts to keep our everyone safe! i wish we don’t have such toxicity in our world. hope you are well and enjoying motherhood.

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  14. especially in children’s rooms and even as bed frames for kids, and in good

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  26. David

    It’s good to read this. However, I’ve been thinking of building a shack with pallet boards exposed only on the outside. The inner walls would be insulated, then paneled or covered in something safe. It sounds that painting the outside might be advisable too, maybe a latex base.

  27. What a bummer. I was just getting excited about the idea of making some fun furniture using old wood pallets. But I guess it better to learn about this now instead of later. Thanks for the great article.

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