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Chlorine Q & A

Q. What is Chlorine?

A. Chlorine is an element found in the natural world. It is found in nature as inorganic salts (common table salt is sodium chloride) and in more than 1,500 organic compounds, including plants, animals, and even human blood and saliva!
Chlorine is used in many manufacturing processes and as part of finished products. It is used in manufacturing many types of plastics and packaging and is even a key ingredient in medicines and pharmaceuticals! For many years virgin fiber was bleached with hypochlorite a compound that reacts with organic materials and can produce compounds known as dioxins. Elemental chlorine bleaching was phased out in the United States in 2001 as a result of the EPA Cluster Rules.

Q. What is Elemental Chlorine Free?

A. For many years virgin fiber was bleached with hypochlorite a compound that reacts with organic materials and may produce dioxins or its pre-cursors in the reaction. Most virgin pulp mills have stopped using this chemistry and are substituting chlorine dioxide in the bleaching stages. This virtually eliminates dioxin and its associated compounds from the waste water. This process is called elemental chlorine free (ECF). Some mills are totally chlorine free (TCF) meaning they bleach with oxygen, ozone or peroxide.

Q. What is Processed Chlorine Free?

A. Processed chlorine free (PCF) means the paper is manufactured without the use of chlorine or chlorine compounds, such as chlorine dioxide. The term Processed Chlorine Free is applied only to post consumer recycled fiber only as process originally used to bleach the virgin pulp cannot be known.

Q. What are Chlorine Dioxins?

A. Chlorine Dioxins are a family of compounds containing chlorine atoms. Dioxins are created in small amounts when chlorine is present during naturally occurring combustion (forest fires, volcanoes) or combustion resulting from human action (motor vehicles, metals production, electricity generation, wood-burning fireplaces, etc.). Under certain conditions, dioxins can be formed when chlorine is used in industrial processes, but dioxin emissions from those processes have declined dramatically in recent years.

The EPA offers assurance that while dioxin has been shown to be toxic to certain lab animals, evidence is lacking that it has serious long-term effects on humans. However, the EPA does characterize dioxins as likely human carcinogens and anticipates they may increase the risk of cancer certain exposure levels.

Q. Are U.S. mills required to manufacture elemental chlorine free?

A. Yes. U.S. mills were required to replace elemental chlorine with more complex chlorine compounds, such as chlorine dioxide, by the US EPA Cluster Rule of April 2001.

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