Bacteria found in a polluted German river can digest dioxin, a chemical linked to cancer and other diseases.

Dioxin is a byproduct of industrial processes involving chlorine, such as the production of paper.

People exposed to high levels of dioxin are at greater risk of developing cancer, according to the National Center for Environmental Assessment, and long-term exposure to low levels has also been connected to other health conditions.

The bacteria, Dehalococcoides CBDB1, is the first identified that can digest dioxin. It is anaerobic and uses chlorine atoms for energy. Reducing chlorine atoms in dioxin makes it less toxic and allows other bacteria to break it down.