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Published on Sep 6, 2016
Hydrogen peroxide is a manufactured chemical compound (with the formula H2O2) although small amounts of gaseous hydrogen peroxide occur naturally in the air. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR), hydrogen peroxide is found in many households at low concentrations (3-9%) for medicinal applications and as a clothes and hair bleach. In industry, hydrogen peroxide in higher concentrations is used as a bleach for textiles and paper, as a component of rocket fuels, and for producing foam rubber and organic chemicals.
The ATSDR states that 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 and exposure can cause mild ocular irritation. Inhalation of vapors 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 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.
These are just a few things to know about hydrogen peroxide and exposure concerns. To learn more about this or other health and safety, occupational, environmental or air quality issues, please visit the websites shown on the screen.