Pulp and Paper Workers, and Paper Dermatitis

  • Michael HaeberleEmail author
Reference work entry


Pulp and paper manufacturing are complex industrial processes. Pulp mill operations are becoming more automated. Operating personnel spend more time in the control rooms, away from the industrial process. This fact minimizes the workers’ exposure to hazardous substances.

The most common chemical pulping process is the sulfate (kraft) method followed by bleaching of pulp. Sulfite pulping is suitable for producing cellulose from spruce wood.

Chlorine dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone are hazardous gases which may cause mucous membrane irritation and intoxication.

Pulp and paper workers are at risk of developing respiratory and gastrointestinal cancer and hematologic malignancies due to exposure to multiple cancerogenic substances at their workplaces.

Contact dermatitis is rare among pulp and paper workers. Only 1.3% of the workers in a Swedish wood-pulp factory had work-related dermatitis. This prevalence corresponded to the frequency in the mean population. In a Dutch paper mill, however, irritant contact dermatitis was seen in 26% of the workers; 36% of them were diagnosed with mycosis of the feet.

Slimicides and their constituents – potent biocides – are the most prominent agents causing allergic contact dermatitis among pulp and paper workers.

Colophony (Rosin) and formaldehyde are the most important allergens causing paper dermatitis.

Carbonless paper (NCR paper) is no hazard to the health of either paper workers or users, and has only a small potential for producing mild and transient skin irritation.

Duplicating paper, in general, is a safe process, since there are only few case reports about allergic contact dermatitis due to the chemicals involved. Ammonia as an irritant gas may be released by the diazo process.

Biocides used as preservatives in wet toilet paper are potent contact allergens. In contrast, perfume in hygiene paper is a neglectable source for sensitization.


Pulp and paper worker Paper mill Sulfate pulping Sulfite pulping Pulp bleaching Sulfur dioxide Chlorine dioxide Hydrogen peroxide Ozone Hazardous gases Cancer Allergic contact dermatitis Slimicides Paper dermatitis Colophony (Rosin) Formaldehyde Diazo dyes Carbon paper Carbonless paper (NCR) “Sick building syndrome” Copy paper Toilet paper Fragrance 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dermatological PracticeKuenzelsauGermany

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