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Chemists Try for Cleaner Papermaking

Paper production is a messy business. As mill workers process 100 million tons of pulp each year, dioxins and other troublesome compounds escape into the environment, where they linger in natural waters and harm fish (SN: 11/4/95, p. 295).

Now, chemists have developed a method that they say could help the paper industry clean up its act.

Wood pulp contains cellulose, the raw material of paper, and lignin, a natural gluelike polymer that gives wood much of its integrity. Generally, manufacturers remove the lignin by oxidizing it with chlorine dioxide–or, in some countries, chlorine. These reactions break down lignin but produce chlorinated chemical pollutants.

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