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A Guide to Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid chemical that has many different hygienic and cleaning uses. You can commonly find hydrogen peroxide in personal hygiene or care products like antiseptics, hair bleach and dye, mouthwash, or toothpaste. It has effective cleaning properties as well, so you can also find it in laundry or bathroom products.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the various functions, advantages, and safety precautions for using hydrogen peroxide.

Functions

Due to its oxidizing and antimicrobial properties, hydrogen peroxide’s primary function is for cleaning and disinfecting. You can find it in small amounts in toothpaste and coloring products like bleach since its oxidizing effect can help lighten your teeth or hair. It is also found in over-the-counter antiseptics for treating and sterilizing wounds. Household products also contain hydrogen peroxide.

The FDA or Food and Drug Administration approves and monitors products that use hydrogen peroxide to ensure that customers are safe. In the right amount, it is safe and beneficial for personal care needs.

Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit organization for scientific research, recently developed a vaporized hydrogen peroxide sterilization method for cleaning personal protective equipment (PPE) such as the N95 respirator mask used by health workers and frontliners.

It is particularly useful since there may not be enough supply of respirator masks all the time, and rather than wasting used masks, they can instead be disinfected and reused. Using vaporized hydrogen peroxide can make the disinfection process faster and more convenient, which will make our frontliners’ jobs more comfortable to do.

Safety Precautions

For personal hygiene and care products, hydrogen peroxide should be present in tiny quantities. Tooth whiteners should contain only 0.1% to 6% concentration of hydrogen peroxide to be considered safe for consumers. This test was conducted by the European Commission on Health & Consumer Protection.

The FDA has placed hydrogen peroxide under the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list for oral wound treatment and food additive purposes.

Household cleaning products come with instructions and warnings to ensure that users are safe from their potentially harmful chemicals. Hydrogen peroxide-based products generally contain 3% hydrogen peroxide.

Frequently Asked Questions

How safe are hydrogen peroxide-based products?

Though personal care products contain very tiny concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, users should avoid ingesting or inhaling them to prevent any potential health complications. Some products that contain up to 5% may involve skin contact on use, but these are generally safe since hydrogen peroxide doesn’t penetrate the skin in small amounts.

Some may experience skin or nose irritation when dealing with hydrogen peroxide-based products. Consult your doctor if any alarming symptoms arise.

Solutions like industrial cleaning agents that may have around 30% hydrogen peroxide concentration are hazardous, which is why they come with warnings and instructions to avoid unwanted contact.

Do I need to protect myself from cleaning solutions with hydrogen peroxide?

Unless you’re working in an environment where constant exposure to hydrogen peroxide is a hazard, then it’s generally unnecessary. Still, if you find yourself experiencing mild irritation, you may want to put on some protection to minimize contact as much as possible.

Factories that have bleaching in their manufacturing processes like paper or textile production use large amounts of hydrogen peroxide. In areas with poor ventilation, vaporized or aerosolized hydrogen peroxide inhalation can cause asphyxiation. This is why personnel working with hydrogen peroxide must follow proper protocols to avoid short and long term health risks.

How else can hydrogen peroxide be used?

Hydrogen peroxide can be used for cleaning vegetables by disinfecting any bacteria on them. They can clean surfaces in your house where mildew, mold, and bacteria commonly grow on. There are also gargling products that use tiny concentrations of hydrogen peroxide to help soothe throat and mouth irritation.

Can I use hydrogen peroxide to kill the coronavirus?

Yes. Solutions with hydrogen peroxide have been used to disinfect the PPE of health workers. Consumer products that contain 3% hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean any possibly contaminated surface in your house.

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