Peracetic Acid: Uses and Safety

Peracetic acid (also known as peroxyacetic acid, or PAA) is a colorless liquid that with the formula CH3CO3H is used as a strong and fast-acting oxidizing agent and sanitizer in various industrial and commercial applications. It is a mixture of acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide, and is often used in food and beverage processing, water treatment, and as a disinfectant for medical and dental equipment. Peracetic acid is highly reactive and can be hazardous if not handled properly, due to its potential to cause skin and eye irritation and other health effects.


Peracetic acid (PAA) is used in a variety of industrial and commercial applications due to its strong oxidizing properties. Some of its common uses include:

  1. Disinfection and sanitization: PAA is commonly used as a disinfectant and sanitizer in food and beverage processing, dairy, poultry and meat processing, as well as in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
  2. Water treatment: PAA is used to treat wastewater and drinking water to kill bacteria and other harmful microorganisms.
  3. Pulp and paper production: PAA is used as a bleaching agent in the production of pulp and paper products to improve their whiteness and brightness.
  4. Textile processing: PAA is used to whiten and brighten textiles, as well as to remove dye stains and other impurities.
  5. Agricultural applications: PAA is used as a fungicide and bactericide in the agriculture industry to control plant diseases and improve plant growth.
  6. Swimming pool and spa disinfection: PAA is used as a disinfectant in swimming pools and spas to kill harmful microorganisms.
  7. Oil and gas industry: PAA is used in the oil and gas industry to clean and disinfect equipment, as well as to control bacteria and other microorganisms in production water.


Peracetic acid is a highly toxic and reactive chemical that poses a serious health risk to individuals if they are exposed to it. According to the Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGL) set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to peracetic acid can cause respiratory irritation, eye and skin irritation, and even central nervous system effects at high concentrations.

The AEGLs provide guidelines for emergency response planning and help to prevent harm to the public and the environment from exposure to hazardous chemicals in the air. The AEGLs are developed for three exposure periods: 10 minutes, 30 minutes, and 1 hour, and are intended to help emergency responders, government agencies, and industry manage the health effects associated with exposure to peracetic acid.

Therefore, it is important to handle peracetic acid with caution and to follow appropriate safety measures to minimize the risk of exposure. This includes wearing personal protective equipment, using appropriate ventilation, and following proper storage and handling procedures.

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