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Chlorine-free Paper Confronting the Destruction of Life Systems

Facts on the issue

The bleaching of pulp and paper with chlorinated chemicals contributes to the formation of persistent organic pollutants, or POPs. POPs are carcinogenic and are endocrine disrupters. They have a long-term impact on humans and wildlife. POPs:

  • Wreak havoc on wildlife, ecosystems and human health,
  • Have been implicated in cancers, reproductive disorders, neurobehavioral impairment and reduced intelligence capacity,
  • Resist breakdown in sunlight and persist for years,
  • Are fat-loving and accumulate in body tissue, and
  • Move north with air and ocean currents, thus are more concentrated in northern climates.

The pulp and paper industry has used chlorine gas to bleach wood pulp in manufacturing paper. Realizing that this process was releasing dioxins, the industry began using chlorine dioxide. This process has significantly reduced the level of dioxins and is called ECF (elemental chlorine free).

However, another process is totally chlorine free and uses oxygen delignification and ozone bleaching along with hydrogen peroxide. Paper that is all virgin pulp bleached without the use of any chlorinated compounds is called TCF (totally chlorine free). Paper that contains recycled content but that is re-bleached without any chlorine compounds is called PCF (process chlorine free).

Many environmental groups are urging U.S. paper companies to move toward TCF/PCF manufacturing processes. Under current regulations these companies do not have sufficient incentive to make that commitment. They also argue that TCF/PCF is not a large share of the market. Encouraging consumers to increase the demand for TCF/PCF paper is one step to bring about change.

Actions you can take

  • Join the Adrian Dominican Sisters in purchasing chlorine free copying paper.
  • If your supplier claims that a specific paper is chlorine free, ask for certification because many claims are actually false or misleading
  • When using Kinkos, request chlorine-free paper.
  • Check out the web site: www.chlorinefreeproducts.org.