Answer Man

Avoid wooden pallets if you don’t know what they’ve been used for

Q: Our family is having a debate over the use of wooden pallets for projects around the house. I say they are not safe because you do not know what has been shipped on them. Working in retail for more than 40 years, I have seen fertilizer, garden chemicals, paint thinners, etc., shipped on pallets. Do I have a legitimate concern?

M.U., of Belleville

A: You most certainly do. The site www.1001pallets.com offers, well, 1,001 ways to recycle, upcycle, reuse and repurpose wooden pallets. After all, an estimated 2 billion are used every day — not counting those just lying around. But despite its help-save-the-environment philosophy, the site urges caution because you may find some (pardon the pun) unpalletable for use around your home.

“The first issue is to be careful of what has been spilled on the pallet!” the site warns. “If there are any spills on it, either oil, food or unknown substances, do not use this pallet. It is well known that pallets are used to transport all sorts of nasty products and liquids. It is much safer to use only clean ones and not try to identify what might be on your pallet.”

But that’s only one worry. How the pallets were made is another, the site cautions. The wood in pallets shipped internationally, for example, must be treated to prevent the spread of invasive insects and plant diseases from one country to another. Some are treated with heat, but some still may be coated with a nasty pesticide, methyl bromide. These pallets must be marked with a logo that tells how they were treated. If you see HT (heat-treated), DB (debarked) or KD (kiln-dried), they’re safe to use if otherwise clean. If you see MB, steer clear.

If there are no markings, you’re on your own. These are “national pallets” that are used within one country.

“Most of them are not treated with chemicals, so they may be entirely safe,” the website says. “But you still have to be careful. I know people who use these pallets safely, but it is better if you can trace where they come from.”

I don’t mean to put the fear of God into you, but better safe than sorry probably should be your watchwords.

Today’s trivia

What famous painter turned his monogram into a butterfly, which he would use as an actual element in his paintings rather than just an add-on signature?

Answer to Friday’s trivia: As if the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna weren’t magnificent enough by itself, it also boasts the oldest zoo in the world still in existence. The Tiergarten (Animal Garden) Schönbrunn was constructed in 1752 on order of Francis I, the Holy Roman Emperor and husband of Maria Theresa of Austria. It served as an imperial menagerie at the couple’s modest 1,441-room summer residence outside the city. Since then, it has become one of the most respected zoos in the world and now houses some 700 animal species, some of them endangered. On Aug. 7, 2016, the zoo saw the birth of Fu Feng and Fu Ban, naturally conceived giant panda twins. This year, the zoo celebrated the completion on a new giraffe complex. The zoo welcomes more than 2 million visitors each year.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

  Comments