Pulping as a Recycling Alternative to Shredding: Paper Made Me Sick

I had a fairly large quantity of paper with personal information on it, and wanted to dispose of it. Initially, it was shredded, but that was taking too long, so I decided to try and pulp it.

I put it into a bucket of water. A few days later, it was still sheets of paper, but I could tear it up.  A couple days after that, it had started to pulp, so I formed them into balls for drying.

Since this first try seemed to work, I found another batch of papers, and put them into the bucket.  After three days, the paper was soaked, and I could start tearing it up. This time, the water smelled like rust.

I assumed that some paper clips had rusted.  But, after an hour of breathing this stuff in, and then sitting at the computer a bit, I started to feel sick. Nothing severe, but a bit of a nauseated feeling.

So I looked up what I thought might be the issue: dioxin poisoning. I knew white paper contained it.  Well, it didn’t seem to be dioxin, but some articles said that some paper products contain formaldehyde.

The smell of formaldehyde is like pickles. That’s what this water smelled like. Formaldehyde is used in carbonless NCR forms.  I had some of those in there. It’s also used to “toughen up” papers, and there were some tough sheets in there that didn’t disintegrate easily.

Not only that, but the symptoms of formaldehyde poisoning are irritation. Yes, I did feel some irritation in my eyes.  I treated it by washing my hands and arms, which had contacted the smelly water.

So, conclusion: pulping can work as an alternative to shredding, but do not pulp anything but plain white paper, and toss the carbonless forms into the shredder.

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