What is Natural Paper?


Natural paper is making a big comeback in modern times. As more and more people are concerned with chemicals, toxins, and pollution, natural paper provides a fresh alternative that’s simple, rustic, and trendy.

What is natural paper? Natural paper is made from raw plant-based fibers such as cotton, linen, hemp, wood, or grassy stalks. It’s famous for a variety of artistic textures. Natural paper is unbleached and minimizes the use of synthetic chemicals. Natural dye and flowers can be added for style.

Many photographers and chefs are turning to natural paper for their work because of the superior quality it provides. Not only is it better for the environment, it feels and looks better overall.

What natural resource is paper made from?

Traditionally, most factory-white standard paper comes from wood pulp. However, natural paper is usually made from fibrous materials that come from non-wood plants or recycled organic matter.

Natural paper can be made from the following natural resources:

  • Flax
  • Cotton
  • Bamboo
  • Grassy stalks
  • Linen
  • Hemp
  • Natural recycled paper
  • Papyrus
  • Kenaf
  • Natural Clothing
  • Jute
  • Sugarcane
  • Sorghum

Fibrous material (cellulose) from the stalk of the plant is used to make natural paper. The leaves and roots of the plant are usually removed. The stalk has the most fiber that serves as the structural component of natural paper.

What is natural kraft paper?

Natural kraft paper is thick and durable brown paper that’s used for a variety of purposes such as wrapping, shipping, cards, and packaging. It’s brown from natural wood pulp that makes up the paper’s structure. It’s not bleached, colored, or written on and has a rustic, natural, unprocessed feel.

What is natural kraft paper?

What is kraft paper used for?

  • Paperbag lunches
  • Simple rustic gift-wrapping
  • Book-wrapping
  • Envelopes and mailers
  • Pastry bags
  • Shipping
  • Jar labels
  • Crinkled stuffing for shipping boxes
  • Business cards
  • Invitations
  • Tags
  • Artwork cover and transport
  • Scrapbooks
  • Crafts
  • Bread bags
  • Gift bags
  • Insulation
  • Liner
  • Placemats
  • Table covers

What is natural parchment paper?

Natural parchment paper is unbleached brown paper that’s used for cooking. It lines pans to prevent sticking and makes clean-up easier. Chlorine isn’t used in the manufacturing process and it shouldn’t contain the byproduct chemicals TCDD (dioxin) or TCDF (furan). It comes from food-grade wood.

If you’re searching for a natural alternative to parchment paper, you might want to try unbleached, chlorine-free, silicone-free, TCDD-free (dioxin), and TCDF-free (furan) parchment paper. Or try baking on well-greased oven-safe clear glass, clay, or pure stainless steel bakeware that’s non-toxic and safe at high temperatures. Grease with a high smoke-point oil. Don’t bake with olive oil above 350 degrees.

What to look for in parchment paper:

  1. Chorine-free
  2. Unbleached
  3. Polydimethylsiloxane-free (coating)
  4. TCDD-free (free of dioxins)
  5. TCDF-free (free of furans)
  6. Natural brown color
  7. Tested for PCB’s
  8. Safe for baking at high temperatures
  9. Compostable
  10. Food-grade wood pulp
  11. All natural ingredients
  12. 100% biodegradable
  13. Supports sustainable forestry
  14. Manufacturing protects public water system

It’s important to check that the byproducts of chlorine in the paper pulp-bleaching process, such as TCDD and TCDF, don’t get dumped into our community lakes, rivers, and streams.

Natural parchment paper shouldn’t have any added color and should be 100% dye-free. It should be a natural shade of brown, just like the wood it comes from.

When heat is applied to parchment paper, there should be no leaching of toxic chemicals into the food. The company should be able to prove this. Ask specifically about “polydimethylsiloxane“.

It’s important that sustainable forestry is maintained through the process of parchment paper production. In Oregon, a tree must be replanted for every tree cut down.

Does parchment paper leach into food?

Most parchment paper is coated with silicone to prevent sticking.

A study showed that silicone-coated parchment paper leached polydimethylsiloxane into the bottom of baked cookies and pizza. ¹

The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s ChemIDplus website says that Polydimethylsiloxanes are agents “used to cause artificial silicone embolism in rabbits.”

An embolism can be a blood clot that obstructs an artery in the lungs. This can cause lung damage and even lead to death.

PDMS stands for polydimethylsiloxane.

According to PubChem, dimethicone and polydimethylsiloxane are listed under “Synonyms” for Octamethyltrisiloxane . ²

A different study showed the following LONG-TERM effects of feeding dimethicone (a silicone) to rats for 2 years ² :

  • Lung lesions
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in female reproductive organs (ovaries and uterus)
  • Mild fatty liver changes
  • Changes in lining of kidney tubes

The above effects were observed under microscopic examination. ²

Another study exposed dogs, rats, and guinea pigs to a fine mist of dimethicone for 6 hours. 3 guinea pigs died during the procedure. Excitability, salivation, and hyperventilation was recorded with exposure. The animals killed immediately after the experiment had excessive blood in their lungs with blood vessel ruptures. ²

A different study showed that siloxane can migrate from silicone bakeware into food. ³

Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) is an example of a common type of siloxane. There are many different kinds, names, and forms of siloxanes. “Siloxane” is just a generic parent name that covers a bunch of different chemicals containing a specific group of silicon and oxygen atoms.

What does chlorine in parchment paper do?

What does chlorine in parchment paper do?

Many companies use chlorine when manufacturing parchment paper. Parchment paper that’s white is often bleached. Chlorine is a common chemical used for bleaching.

The World Health Organization’s website says that chlorine bleaching of paper pulp forms by-products called dioxins.

The World Health Organization also says that dioxins are highly toxic and can cause cancer, reproductive harm, immune system damage, and interfere with hormones.

TCDD is a dioxin and TCDF is a furan. These 2 chemicals need to be extensively tested for levels in paper products today. There isn’t enough data that shows kitchen paper products have safe or unsafe levels of these chemicals, with or without heat application (e.g., parchment paper). We can do better and be more accountable.

What does TCDD stand for?

2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-P-dioxin

Dioxins are also referred to as PCDD, which is short for “polychlorinated dibenzodioxins”.

Regular people use household paper products all the time in food preparation: heated parchment paper, coffee filters, tea bags, seeping paper plates, hot paper cups, the list goes on.

Don’t you want to know what chemicals are leaching into your food and into the air? And what about heat application to parchment paper in the oven? Does that increase the evaporation of chemicals into the air? What happens when we breathe it in?

Chemicals that need more testing in paper products

AbbreviationFull Chemical Name Examples
TCDD (a dioxin)2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-P-dioxin
TCDF (a furan)2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzofuran
PDCB (or p-DCB)1,4-Dichlorobenzene
Chlorophenol2,4,5-Trichlorophenol
2,4,6-Trichlorophenol
PCB (broader group name)Hexachlorobiphenyl 
2,2′,4,4′,5,5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl
3, 3′, 4, 4′, 5, 5′-hexachlorobiphenyl
All kitchen paper products should not exceed allowable levels of these chemicals.

TCDD is a dioxin we should be concerned about in our paper products.

TCDD is found in Agent Orange.

Why is TCDD toxic?

The National Library of Medicine classifies the chemical safety of TCDD as an irritant, acutely toxic, and an environmental hazard.

  • The PubChem website goes on to state that TCDD (a dioxin) was detected in pulp and paper samples, including German coffee paper cups and filters. There’s evidence TCDD causes cancer in animals, with limited evidence in humans.
  • The dioxin, TCDD, has been shown to cause liver and kidney damage in animals, as well as hemorrhage.
  • The GHS classification of TCDD on PubChem states “fatal if swallowed”.

Is TCDF dangerous?

TCDF is a different chemical of concern. TCDF is a furan, short for 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzofuran.

TCDF is a chemical that’s produced as a byproduct from bleaching wood pulp at paper mills. It’s produced alongside toxic dioxins and has been found in bleached paper products.

  • The National Library of Medicine website classifies the chemical safety of TCDF as acutely toxic and an environmental hazard.
  • It says that bleached paper products were shown to leach TCDF into milk and cream from a carton, into juice, from a coffee filter into coffee, from a coated cup to coffee, from coated plates into beef, and more. Different foods had different amounts of leaching and depended on various factors, such as time and temperature.
  • A different study states that TCDF was toxic to guinea pigs, which caused weight loss, spleen and thymus problems, depression, and ended up in death.
  • The PubChem government website discusses how TCDF (2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzofuran) was detected in multiple sources of cow’s milk packaged in cartons.
  • Another study showed that TCDF was linked to impaired liver function and blood problems (aplastic anemia) in monkeys. ¹⁰

An interesting study revealed that dichlorobenzene, trichlorophenyl, and hexachlorobiphenyl were found in samples of paper products.


Is dichlorobenzene toxic?

The National Library of Medicine classifies the chemical safety of 1,4-Dichlorobenzene as an irritant, health hazard, and environmental hazard. ¹¹

A scientific review revealed that Para-dichlorobenzene (PDCB) can affect the lungs, liver, kidneys, and skin. It’s linked to tissue damage of the central nervous system, which includes the brain and nerves. ¹²

Is chlorophenol dangerous?

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), high levels of chlorophenols can cause damage to the immune system and liver. 13

The ATSDR also reported that chlorophenols are produced during the paper-making process when chlorine is used to bleach wood pulp. 13

The Environmental Protection Agency’s website stated that Trichlorophenol (mixed) is a probable human carcinogen. 14

The National Library of Medicine’s website states that both 2,4,5-Trichlorophenol and 2,4,6-Trichlorophenol may be released during the bleaching process at paper mills. 15, 16

2,4,5-Trichlorophenol is also used as a fungicide in some paper mills. 15

Are PCB’s toxic? (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)

The FDA’s website says, “paper food-packaging materials contain PCB’s which may migrate to the packaged food.” 20

The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) defines very specific levels of PCB’s that are allowed in food. Small amounts are permitted due to the fact that they’re unavoidable environmental contaminants. 20

The FDA reports that PCB’s can be found in paper food-packaging and in some animal-based foods such as 20:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Dairy products
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Infant and junior foods
  • Paper food-packaging materials

The EPA banned the manufacture of PCB’s in 1978, so they can’t be intentionally added to any products in the United States today. Unfortunately, PCB’s still exist as environmental contaminants. They break down slowly, so they’re hard to get rid of.

2, 2′, 4, 4′, 5, 5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl is an example of a PCB.

  • The National Library of Medicine’s website (PubChem) lists the chemical safety of 2,2′,4,4′,5,5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl as a “health hazard” and “environmental hazard”. 18
  • The EPA’s GHS classification listing says that 2,2′,4,4′,5,5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl causes damage to organs with exposure that’s repeated and prolonged. It also says it’s very toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects. 19

According to a study, 2, 2′, 4, 4′, 5, 5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl remained at a higher concentration in the bodies of termites after feeding, as compared to levels of 3, 3′, 4, 4′, 5, 5′-hexachlorobiphenyl. 17

3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl is another example of a PCB.

  • The National Library of Medicine’s PubChem website lists the chemical safety of 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl as a “health hazard” and an “environmental hazard”. 21
  • The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry lists Polychlorinated Biphenyls (3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl) under the following cancer classifications 22 :
    • EPA: Probable human carcinogen
    • IARC: Carcinogenic to humans
    • NTP: Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen
  • PubChem’s toxicity info states that 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl targets the immune system and nervous system. 21

It’s very important that our food and paper products are tested for all the above toxins to ensure consumer safety.

Write to the company of your product of concern to determine if they have tested for dioxins, furans, and PCB’s. Ask if they fall within allowable government limits.


What is natural cellulose paper?

Natural cellulose paper is made with minimal artificial chemicals, dyes, and synthetic materials. The most common type of cellulose comes from wood, but can also come from plants. It should retain its natural color, usually a shade of brown. Only natural thickeners and binders should be added to the paper pulp before pressing and drying.

Some natural thickeners used in cellulose paper include agar agar, mallow root, okra, and some forms of seaweed. There are many other substances that can help the pulp congeal into a uniform jelly mass.

Harsh chemicals should never be used in natural cellulose paper. That means it will be chlorine-free and unbleached by definition. It should be toxin-free. Natural cellulose paper should never contain:

  • TCDD
  • TCDF
  • Chlorine
  • PCB’s
  • Chlorophenol
  • PCDD
  • PDCB
  • Dichlorobenzene

If natural cellulose paper contains any of the above chemicals, then it shouldn’t be called natural.

The basic structure of natural cellulose paper should come from nature, not from a synthetic material. That means the paper pulp would come from a plant or tree as compared to factory-prepared petroleum or plastic, for example.

Natural cellulose paper can be made from the cellulose fibers of any plant-based material such as:

  • Cotton
  • Grassy stalks
  • Kenaf
  • Jute
  • Flax
  • Bamboo
  • Linen
  • Hemp
  • Papyrus
  • Natural clothing
  • Sugarcane
  • Sorghum
  • Tree bark

Handmade Paper

Some of the very best natural cellulose paper is handmade. Online stores like Etsy sell some beautiful products.

The fibers of natural cellulose pulp can be steeped in hot water to help soften the plant’s stalks. Afterwards, they’re pureed or blended into a gooey pulp. If the stalks of the plant are woody, they’re usually steamed first in order to break down the tough components that naturally bind them together (lignins).

True natural cellulose paper pulp is not cooked with lye. Lye is sometimes used in regular cellulose paper to break down the tough lignins in strong plant-based fibers. In order to break these fibers down naturally, they can be steamed with water, cooked in hot water, then beaten manually to help them separate and break up. This process is time-consuming and labor-intensive, but it’s definitely natural and chemical-free.

Natural cellulose paper is often dried between wet felt sheets in order to flatten it and press out excess water.

It’s possible to have natural handmade paper with various colors. Instead of adding synthetic dyes, there are many natural dyes that can be used. For an antique-vintage look, tea or coffee can be used to get that aged appeal.

Is paper natural or processed?

Paper can be either natural or processed. Processed paper is the most common and usually means the wood pulp has been bleached with synthetic chemicals to get that bright white appearance. In contrast, natural paper is usually a shade of brown, unbleached, and made without chemicals.

Regular paper found in copy machines is factory-processed paper made from chemically-bleached wood pulp. Kraft or handmade natural paper usually doesn’t bleach the cellulose pulp, so it looks more rustic and artisan. Each paper-maker has their own recipe and standards for using natural materials and chemicals in their paper. All paper is different, so it’s best to ask the manufacturer what’s in their recipe.

What is the natural color of paper?

Most paper in the world today is made from wood, which generally comes from regular brown tree trunks. If the wood pulp isn’t bleached, the natural color of paper is usually a shade of brown. A brown paper bag is a good example of paper’s natural color.

Natural Paper Uses

Natural paper can be used for many different, unique, and creative things.

Here’s a list of things natural paper can be used for:

  • Art
  • Lamp Shades
  • Toilet Paper
  • Filters
  • Photo Albums
  • Cat Litter
  • Napkins
  • Insulation
  • Wrapping Paper
  • Stickers
  • Business Cards
  • Labels
  • Bags
  • Cards
  • Paper Cups
  • Cardstock
  • Tea Bags
  • Envelopes
  • Paper Flowers
  • Fabric
  • Gift Bags
  • Berry Baskets
  • Invitations
  • Journal
  • Laptop Sleeve
  • Notebooks
  • Paper Plates
  • Ribbon
  • Bedding for Tiny Animals
  • Straws
  • Paper Towels
  • Tags
  • Books
  • Wallpaper
  • Basket

What is natural toilet paper?

Natural toilet paper should be 100% unbleached. It should be tested and free of chlorine, TCDD, TCDF, dioxins, furans, PCB’s, dichlorobenzene, trichlorophenol (a probable human carcinogen 14), and hexachlorobiphenyl. It should be fragrance-free with no artificial dyes added.

Natural toilet paper should come from a plant or wood-based source that has not been exposed to chlorine, chemicals, or toxins.

In some cultures, people use one hand to wipe and save the other hand for daily work and handshaking. This isn’t recommended due to hygiene and sanitation concerns. But it’s definitely a natural alternative to toilet paper. It’s very cost-effective for those on a budget.

Other cultures use soft leaves from non-toxic plants. For safety, always ask your dermatologist what plant leaves are safe and appropriate for the delicate wiping areas. Not all plant leaves agree with that area and could even cause an allergic reaction. Don’t try plant leaves unless your doctor says they’re a safe form of natural toilet paper for you. If approved, make sure to wash them thoroughly in water beforehand.

People have been using leaves since the beginning of time. They’re 100% biodegradable, cost-effective, and compostable. Some plant leaves are softer, sturdier, and more pliable than other leaves. Thick and tough waxy leaves aren’t recommended. Grape leaves have a wonderful texture, but don’t try unless your doctor approves.

Obviously, avoid leaves with spikes and thorns.

Natural toilet paper can also come from soft natural rags at home. For thousands of years, mothers have been washing cloth baby diapers and reusing them many times over. In the same way that baby diapers are reused and washed, so can toilet paper rags. It’s best to wash them in hot water with bleach on the heavy duty washer cycle. What’s the difference between a little baby poo or adult poo on a rag? It’s the same thing.

Wipe with caution.

Using thin natural cloth rags such as hemp, organic cotton, flax, or linen can all serve as great reusable natural toilet paper. Of course, greater care will need to be taken for hygiene purposes with this approach, but it’s doable. Put out a cloth baby diaper bin right next to the toilet with a foot-based lever to open the lid. That way, you don’t have to touch anything when you put your rag in the bin.

Make sure to always line the bin with a sturdy plastic liner in order to prevent fecal contamination of the bin itself. When you take the toilet paper bin to the washing machine with the baby diapers and wipe rags, carefully dump all the contents into hot bleached water on the heavy duty cycle. Wear gloves and a mask. Wash your hands thoroughly after.

This is a reasonable toilet paper alternative in times of toilet paper shortage. Old t-shirts and socks can also be used if they’re clean.


Conclusion

Natural paper is a precious find in the flood of processed paper today. It brings back a sense of simplicity, being grounded, and authenticity.

As the use of natural paper becomes more and more popular, we see the planet gradually transitioning to a cleaner and healthier place to live.

Even though most paper comes from a wood-based natural resource, it can also be manufactured from the cellulose fibers of almost any plant.

Natural kraft paper and parchment paper are becoming all the rage in the culinary world today. It brings back a sense of the artisan cook that uses quality simple ingredients with style. Rustic has been upgraded.

It’s important to avoid parchment paper that’s been bleached with chlorine and to ensure it’s toxin-free. There’s scientific evidence that chemicals can leach into food from parchment paper and milk cartons.

Chlorine-bleached parchment paper is not a good thing.

Natural cellulose paper is becoming the preferred option as people start to realize the toxic environmental effects some paper mills have on our communities, aquatic life, and water systems.

Using natural paper is a great way to take one step closer to nature. Are you in?

Carpe diem.


References

  1. Jakob A, Crawford EA, Gross JH. Detection of polydimethylsiloxanes transferred from silicone-coated parchment paper to baked goods using direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry.  J Mass Spectrom. 2016; 51(4): 298-304. doi:10.1002/jms.3757 [PubMed]
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 24705, Octamethyltrisiloxane. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Octamethyltrisiloxane. Accessed Aug. 11, 2020.
  3. Helling R, Kutschbach K, Joachim Simat T. Migration behaviour of silicone moulds in contact with different foodstuffs.  Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2010; 27(3): 396-405. doi:10.1080/19440040903341869 [PubMed]
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. ChemIDPlus Substance Name: Polydimethylsiloxanes. RN: 63148-62-9. https://chem.nlm.nih.gov/chemidplus/rn/63148-62-9. Accessed Aug. 11, 2020.
  5. World Health Organization.  Dioxins and their effects on human health.  World Health Organization website.  October 4, 2016.  Accessed August 12, 2020.  https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dioxins-and-their-effects-on-human-health
  6. Thacker NP, Nitnaware VC, Das SK, Devotta S.  Dioxin formation in pulp and paper mills of India.  Environ Sci Pollut Res Int.  2007; 14(4): 225-226.  doi:10.1065/espr2007.02.386   [PubMed]
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  9. National Center for Biotechnology Information.  PubChem Compound Summary for CID 39929, 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzofuran.  Moore JA et al; Conf Proc Natl Conf Polychlorinated Biphenyls; ISS EPA-560/6-75-004: 77-80 (1976). https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/2_3_7_8-Tetrachlorodibenzofuran.  Accessed Aug. 12, 2020. 
  10. National Center for Biotechnology Information.  PubChem Compound Summary for CID 39929, 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzofuran.  Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences., 320(151), 1979 [PMID:110190].  https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/2_3_7_8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran#section=Toxicity.  Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.
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  12. Dubey D, Sharma VD, Pass SE, Sawhney A, Stüve O.  Para-dichlorobenzene toxicity – a review of potential neurotoxic manifestations.  Ther Adv Neurol Disord.  2014; 7(3): 177-187. doi:10.1177/1756285614521889   [PMC free article]
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  19. United States Environmental Protection Agency.  GHS Data for
    2,2′,4,4′,5,5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl, 35065-27-1 | DTXSID2032180.  https://comptox.epa.gov/dashboard/dsstoxdb/results?search=DTXSID2032180#safety.  Accessed Aug. 18, 2020.
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  21. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 36231, 3,3′,4,4′,5,5′-Hexachlorobiphenyl. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/36231. Accessed Aug. 18, 2020.
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Natural Universal Secrets

The author is a nature enthusiast who loves to share tips on how to live closer to nature. These gems of knowledge encourage a simpler life and cleaner way of living. Inspired by the magnificence and power of the natural world, these info-packed articles feature independent research, personal experience, and universal wisdom. Products that support natural beauty, clothing, personal hygiene, and a healthier lifestyle are explored. All natural product reviews are based on harmony with nature as the guiding principle and gold standard.

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