THE industrial release of hydrocarbons and chlorine-containing organic molecules into the environment continues to attract considerable public concern, which in turn has led to governmental attempts to control such emissions. The challenge is to reduce pollution without stifling economic growth1. Chlorine-containing pollutants are known to be particularly stable, and at present the main industrial process for their destruction involves thermal oxidation at 1,000° C, an expensive process that can lead to the formation of highly toxic by-products such as dioxins and dibenzofurans2. Catalytic combustion at lower temperatures could potentially destroy pollutants more efficiently (in terms of energy requirements) and without forming toxic by-products. Current industrial catalysts are based on precious metals that are deactivated rapidly by organochlorine compounds3. Here we report that catalysts based on uranium oxide efficiently destroy a range of hydrocarbon and chlorine-containing pollutants, and that these catalysts are resistant to deactivation. We show that benzene, toluene, chlorobutane and chlorobenzene can be destroyed at moderate temperatures (<400 °C) and industrially relevant flow rates.