Hydrogen Peroxide


Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound with the formula H2O2. [1] It is a colourless liquid at room temperature with a bitter taste. Small amounts of gaseous hydrogen peroxide occur naturally in the air. It is unstable, decomposing readily to oxygen and water with release of heat. Although non-flammable, it is a powerful oxidising agent that can cause spontaneous combustion when it comes in contact with organic material. [2]

Uses [1]


  • Hydrogen peroxide is used for pulp- and paper-bleaching.
  • It is also used in the manufacture of sodium percarbonate and sodium perborate, which are used as mild bleaches in laundry detergents.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is used in the production of various organic peroxides including dibenzoyl peroxide, which are used as a flour bleaching agent and as a treatment for acne.
  • Peroxy acids, such as peracetic acid and meta-chloroperoxybenzoic acid are also typically produced using hydrogen peroxide.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is used in certain waste-water treatment processes to remove organic impurities.



  • Hydrogen peroxide can be used for the sterilisation of various surfaces, including surgical tools and may be deployed as a vapour (VHP) for room sterilisation.
  • Historically hydrogen peroxide was used for disinfecting wounds. It is now thought to slow healing and lead to scarring because it destroys newly formed skin cells.

Cosmetic applications

  • Diluted hydrogen peroxide (between 1.9% and 12%) mixed with ammonium hydroxide is used to bleach human hair.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is also used for tooth whitening and can be mixed with baking soda and salt to make a home-made toothpaste.
  • Hydrogen peroxide may be used to treat acne, although benzoyl peroxide is a more common treatment.


Hydrogen peroxide is a component of rocket fuel.


Hydrogen peroxide has been used for creating organic peroxide-based explosives, such as acetone peroxide, for improvised explosive devices.

Other uses

  • Glow sticks: Hydrogen peroxide reacts with certain di-esters, such as phenyl oxalate ester (cyalume), to produce chemiluminescence; this application is most commonly encountered in the form of glow sticks.


Some horticulturalists and users of hydroponics advocate the use of weak hydrogen peroxide solution in watering solutions. Its spontaneous decomposition releases oxygen that enhances a plant’s root development and helps to treat root rot (cellular root death due to lack of oxygen) and a variety of other pests.

Fish aeration

Laboratory tests conducted by fish culturists in recent years have demonstrated that common household hydrogen peroxide can be used safely to provide oxygen for small fish. The hydrogen peroxide releases oxygen by decomposition when it is exposed to catalysts such as manganese

Sources & Routes of Exposure

  • Sources of Exposure [2]

  • You can be exposed to hydrogen peroxide through its use as a general disinfectant. Hydrogen peroxide solutions used for this purpose are sold at almost all drugstores or supermarkets.

  • Because hydrogen peroxide is used in many industries for a variety of purposes, workers in such industries may be exposed to this chemical through inhalation or contact with the skin.

Routes of Exposure [3]

  • Inhalation: Inhalation of vapours, mists, or aerosols from concentrated solutions of hydrogen peroxide can cause significant morbidity. Because it is nearly odourless and non-irritating except at high concentrations, persons may not be aware of its presence.
  • Skin/Eye Contact: Hydrogen peroxide is poorly absorbed through intact skin. When used for household disinfectant purposes (3% to 5%), it is mildly irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. At a concentration of 10%, which is found in some hair-bleaching solutions, it is strongly irritating and may be corrosive.
  • Ingestion: If ingested, solutions of hydrogen peroxide up to concentrations of 9% are generally nontoxic; however, even a 3% solution is mildly irritating to mucosal tissue and may cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Ingestion of industrial-strength solutions causes systemic toxicity and has been associated with fatalities.

Health Effects [2]

  • Hydrogen peroxide can be toxic if ingested, inhaled, or by contact with the skin or eyes.
  • Inhalation of household strength hydrogen peroxide (3%) can cause respiratory irritation.
  • Exposure to household strength hydrogen peroxide can cause mild ocular irritation.
  • Inhalation of vapours from concentrated (higher than 10%) solutions may result in severe pulmonary irritation.
  • Ingestion of dilute solutions of hydrogen peroxide may result in vomiting, mild gastrointestinal irritation, gastric distension, and on rare occasions, gastrointestinal erosions or embolism (blockage of blood vessels by air bubbles). Ingestion of solutions of 10-20% strength produces similar symptoms, but exposed tissues may also be burned. Ingestion of even more concentrated solutions, in addition to the above, may also induce rapid loss of consciousness followed by respiratory paralysis.
  • Eye exposure to 3% hydrogen peroxide may result in pain and irritation, but severe injury is rare. More concentrated solution may result in ulceration or perforation of the cornea.
  • Skin contact can cause irritation and temporary bleaching of the skin and hair. Contact with concentrated solutions may cause severe skin burns with blisters.
  • It is unknown whether hydrogen peroxide affects in humans.

Safety [4]

First Aid Measures

  • Eye Contact: Check for and remove any contact lenses. In case of contact, immediately flush eyes with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Cold water may be used. Get medical attention immediately.
  • Skin Contact: In case of contact, immediately flush skin with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes while removing contaminated clothing and shoes. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. Cold water may be used. Wash clothing before reuse. Thoroughly clean shoes before reuse. Get medical attention immediately.
  • Serious Skin Contact: Wash with a disinfectant soap and cover the contaminated skin with an anti-bacterial cream. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Inhalation: If inhaled, remove to fresh air. If not breathing, give artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, give oxygen. Get medical attention immediately.
  • Serious Inhalation: Evacuate the victim to a safe area as soon as possible. Loosen tight clothing such as a collar, tie, belt or waistband. If breathing is difficult, administer oxygen. If the victim is not breathing, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. WARNING: It may be hazardous to the person providing aid to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the inhaled material is toxic, infectious or corrosive. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Ingestion: Do NOT induce vomiting unless directed to do so by medical personnel. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Loosen tight clothing such as a collar, tie, belt or waistband. Get medical attention if symptoms appear.

Fire & Explosion Information

  • Hydrogen peroxide is non-flammable;
  • It is slightly explosive in presence of open flames and sparks, of heat, of organic materials, of metals, of acids.
  • Small fires should be extinguished with water. Do not use dry chemicals or foams. CO2, or Halon may provide limited control.
  • Large fires should be extinguished with water from a distance. Move containers from fire area if you can do it without risk. Do not move cargo or vehicle if cargo has been exposed to heat. Fight fire from maximum distance or use unmanned hose holders or monitor nozzles. Cool containers with flooding quantities of water until well after fire is out. ALWAYS stay away from tanks engulfed in fire.
  • For massive fire, use unmanned hose holders or monitor nozzles; if this is impossible, withdraw from area and let fire burn.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide is a strong oxidiser. It is not flammable itself, but it can cause spontaneous combustion of flammable materials and continued support of the combustion because it liberates oxygen as it decomposes.
  • Hydrogen peroxide mixed with magnesium and a trace of magnesium dioxide will ignite immediately.
  • Soluble fuels (acetone, ethanol, glycerol) will detonate on a mixture with peroxide over 30% concentration, the violence increasing with concentration.
  • Explosive with acetic acid, acetic anhydride, acetone, alcohols, carboxylic acids, nitrogen containing bases, As2S3, Cl2 + KOH, FeS, FeSO4 + 2 methylpryidine + H2SO4, nitric acid, potassium permanganate, P2O5, H2Se, Alcohols + H2SO4, Alcohols + tin chloride, antimony trisulfide, chlorosulfonic acid, aromatic hydrocarbons + trifluoroacetic acid, azeliac acid + sulfuric acid (above 45 C), benzenesulfonic anhydride, tert-butanol + sulfuric acid, hydrazine, Sulfuric acid, Sodium iodate, tetrahydrothiophene, thiodiglycol, mercurous oxide, mercuric oxide, lead dioxide, lead oxide, manganese dioxide, lead sulfide, gallium + HCl, ketenes + nitric acid, Iron (II) sulfate + 2-methylpyridine + sulfuric acid, Iron (II) sulfate + nitric acid, + sodium carboxymethylcellulose (when evaporated), Vinyl acetate, trioxane, water + oxygenated compounds (eg: acetaldehyde, acetic acid, acetone, ethanol, formaldehyde, formic acid, methanol, 2-propanol, propionaldehyde), organic compounds. Beware: Many mixtures of hydrogen peroxide and organic materials may not explode upon contact. However, the resulting combination is detonatable either upon catching fire or by impact.
  • Explosion hazard is severe when highly concentrated or pure hydrogen peroxide is exposed to heat. Mechanical impact or caused to decompose catalytically by metals and their salts, dusts and alkalis.
  • Another source of hydrogen peroxide explosions is from sealing the materials in strong containers.

~h2Exposure Controls & Personal Protective Equipment

Engineering Controls

  • Provide exhaust ventilation or other engineering controls to keep the airborne concentrations of vapours below their respective threshold limit value.
  • Ensure that eyewash stations and safety showers are proximal to the work-station location.

Personal Protective Equipment

The following personal protective equipment is recommended when handling hydrogen peroxide:

  • Face shield
  • Full suit
  • Vapour respirator (be sure to use an approved/certified respirator or equivalent)
  • Gloves
  • Boots

Personal Protection in Case of a Large Spill:

  • Splash goggles
  • Full suit
  • Vapour respirator
  • Boots
  • Gloves
  • A self-contained breathing apparatus should be used to avoid inhalation of the product.
  • Suggested protective clothing might not be sufficient; consult a specialist BEFORE handling this product.


United States

OSHA: The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has set the following Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) for hydrogen peroxide:

  • General Industry: 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-1 — 1 ppm, 1.4 mg/m3 TWA
  • Construction Industry: 29 CFR 1926.55 Appendix A — 1 ppm, 1.4 mg/m3 TWA
  • Maritime: 29 CFR 1915.1000 Table Z-Shipyards — 1 ppm, 1.4 mg/m3 TWA

ACGIH: The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has set a Threshold Limit Value (TLV) for hydrogen peroxide of 1 ppm, 1.4 mg/m3 TWA; Appendix A3 – Confirmed Animal Carcinogen with Unknown Relevance to Humans

NIOSH: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has set a Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for hydrogen peroxide of 1 ppm, 1.4 mg/m3 TWA


Safe Work Australia: Safe Work Australia has set a Time Weighted Average Concentration (TWA) for hydrogen peroxide of 1 ppm or 1.4 mg/m3 for a 40-hour work week.