In domestic and international shipments, wood pallets are almost always used. It’s a necessary element that ensures the safety of any cargo being transported.
But wood pallets are made of natural materials and are a product of their environment. No matter where the trees are grown, wood absorbs the air and water surrounding them, which leads to the inevitable fact that trees also draw in a myriad of pests. And in the safety of wood pallets, it is all too easy for these insects to travel internationally, and potentially ruin the forestation of other regions where they do not belong.
Governments and pallet manufacturers have created methods to exterminate those pests, those methods being heat treating pallets or fumigating pallets.
What Are Heat Treated Pallets?
Heat treated wood pallets are commonly referred to as HT pallets, and are pallets that have gone through a phytosanitary process that was developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) in an effort to “secure coordinated, effective action to prevent and to control the introduction and spread of pests of plants and plant products.”
Pallets are subjugated to temperatures of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 30 minutes during this process. But it’s not limited to pallets! If there are any boxes or crates that need to be used during the shipping process, they will also be heat treated accordingly. Once the heat treating process ensures that all pests and larvae are removed, the heat treated pallets get a stamp of approval, and are able to be used to ship cargo. Heat treatment protects and prevents potential health risks and negative environmental impacts that travelling pests may bring to other countries.
What Are Fumigated Pallets?
Similar to heat treated pallets, fumigated pallets have also gone through a disinfection process to eliminate insects and larvae living in the wood. But instead of killing the unwanted pests via heat, it is done so with chemical treatments.
The chemical used in the fumigation process for wood is called methyl bromide, also known as bromoethane. In the past and across different industries, this chemical was used as a pesticide, fumigant, and sometimes a refrigerant. In the chemical process of eliminating pests, pallets are stacked up into a sealed chamber, and sprayed down with bromoethane in order to kill off the bacteria in the wood.
Why Are Heat Treated Pallets Preferred Over Fumigated Pallets?
Despite the prominence bromoethane had in multiple industries, the use of bromoethane has dramatically decreased, and that is mainly due to the health risks involved. And now, heat treated wood pallets are preferred over fumigated pallets.
Long-term exposure to methyl bromide has been shown to be detrimental to humans, and will often lead to both short and long-term health problems. Damaged lungs, burned skin, irritated eyes, weakened kidneys, and negative neurological effects are just the tip of the iceberg. And methyl bromide also wreaks havoc on the environment. The use of this particular chemical has also caused ozone damage to the Earth’s atmosphere. As the ozone weakens, the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that reaches Earth’s surface also increases.
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