Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a pale blue liquid commonly used as a bleach, antiseptic, and oxidizer, usually in dilute solutions for consumer use, and in higher concentrations for industrial use. It is a reactive oxygen species and can decompose slowly in the presence of light or rapidly in the presence of organic or reactive compounds. It is usually stored with a stabilizer in a weakly acidic solution in a dark bottle. Hydrogen peroxide is also naturally present in biological systems and is used or decomposed by enzymes classified as peroxidases.
Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a pale blue liquid that is slightly more viscous than water. It is a reactive oxygen species and the simplest peroxide, a compound having an oxygen-oxygen single bond. Some of the properties of hydrogen peroxide include:
- Decomposition: Hydrogen peroxide decomposes slowly when exposed to light and rapidly in the presence of organic or reactive compounds.
- Stabilization: It is typically stored with a stabilizer in a weakly acidic solution in a dark bottle to block light.
- Reactivity: Hydrogen peroxide acts as an oxidizer and bleaching agent, and has been used as a propellant in rocketry.
- Presence in biological systems: Hydrogen peroxide is present in biological systems including the human body.
- Peroxidase enzymes: Enzymes that use or decompose hydrogen peroxide are classified as peroxidases.
Hydrogen peroxide can undergo several reactions, some of which include:
- Decomposition: Hydrogen peroxide decomposes spontaneously into water and oxygen gas, which can be catalyzed by a variety of substances, including catalytic metal ions, enzymes, and transition metal catalysts.
- Oxidation: Hydrogen peroxide is used as an oxidizing agent in many chemical reactions, including organic synthesis, detoxification, and purification of water.
- Reduction: Hydrogen peroxide can be reduced to water by reducing agents such as metal ions, reducing sugars, and enzymes.
- Polymerization: Hydrogen peroxide can undergo polymerization reactions to form peroxide polymers, which are used in a variety of applications, including adhesives, polymer coatings, and polymer electrolytes.
- Electrophilic addition: Hydrogen peroxide can undergo electrophilic addition reactions to form peroxide compounds, which are used as intermediates in chemical synthesis and as reagents in organic chemistry.
Hydrogen peroxide has a variety of uses due to its properties as an oxidizing agent and bleach. Some of the common uses of hydrogen peroxide include:
- Disinfectant and sanitizer: Hydrogen peroxide is commonly used as a surface disinfectant, as it is effective in killing bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
- Bleaching agent: Hydrogen peroxide is used to bleach hair and textiles, such as clothes and paper, as well as to remove stubborn stains.
- Oxidizing agent: Hydrogen peroxide is used in the chemical industry as an oxidizing agent in the production of various chemicals, including peroxides and peracids.
- Rocket fuel: Concentrated hydrogen peroxide is used as a rocket propellant in some rocket engines, due to its high combustion energy.
- Environmental applications: Hydrogen peroxide is used for wastewater treatment and as an oxygen source in aquaculture.
- Medical uses: Hydrogen peroxide is used as an antiseptic and wound cleaner in the medical field, as well as an oxygen source in medical oxygen tanks.
- Food and cosmetic industry: Hydrogen peroxide is used in the food industry as a bleach and oxidizing agent, and in the cosmetic industry as an ingredient in some hair and skin products.
Hydrogen peroxide is an unstable and reactive chemical that can cause burns and irritation when it comes into contact with the skin. Inhaling high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide vapors can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. If ingested, hydrogen peroxide can cause burns in the mouth, throat, and esophagus, and may lead to serious health problems if not promptly treated.
To minimize the risks associated with using hydrogen peroxide, it is important to handle it with care and to follow recommended safety procedures, including wearing protective gloves, eye protection, and clothing, and using it in a well-ventilated area. If you come into contact with hydrogen peroxide, rinse the affected area thoroughly with water and seek medical attention if necessary.