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Panel: Bill Gulledge
Media: Sarah Scruggs

Executive Summary

This product stewardship summary has been prepared by the American Chemistry Council’s Hydrogen Peroxide Panel and is intended to provide a general overview of environment, health, and safety information for hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2 or HP; CAS # 7722-84-1) is a clear, colorless liquid used in aqueous solutions. HP does not present undue adverse risks to humans or the environment if used and handled in accordance with applicable risk management practices. However, concentrated solutions of HP (normally not available for consumer use) can be severely irritating and corrosive to the skin and eyes upon contact.


This product stewardship summary is intended to provide general information about hydrogen peroxide (HP). It is not intended to provide an in-depth discussion of all environmental, health and safety information. Additional information on HP is available from applicable Safety Data Sheets and the members of the Panel, and these sources should be consulted before using HP at any concentration above 8%. This product stewardship summary does not supplant or replace required regulatory and/or legal communication documents. General information on hydrogen peroxide is provided in the sections below.

Chemical Identity

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2 or HP; CAS # 7722-84-1) is a clear, colorless liquid used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications. HP is odorless at low concentrations. It is a High Production Volume (HPV) chemical, and the European Union (EU) has completed a risk assessment for HP.

Transportation and Uses

HP is transported in dedicated rail cars, cargo tanks, portable tanks, intermediate bulk containers, and drums. Storage for industrial applications normally ranges between 35% and 70%  strength.1

HP is mainly used for pulp bleaching, environmental applications, and the production of other chemicals such as percarbonate and peracetic acid. Other uses include textile bleaching, metal etching, sterilization of medical instruments and surfaces, metal semiconductor manufacturing, and treatment of drinking water. Less than 5% of the total production volume of HP is used for personal care products (e.g., hair bleaching, household cleaning, tooth bleaching, disinfection products, and cosmetics).

Physical/Chemical Properties

HP is normally handled as an aqueous solution. Commercial solutions are stabilized with additives to prevent possible violent decomposition due to contamination. Vapor phase explosion of HP is not a concern for liquid storage at ambient conditions and would only be encountered at highly concentrated levels and highly elevated temperatures. Studies at ambient temperatures have not resulted in propagating detonation with pure hydrogen peroxide. Residual HP that is allowed to dry (upon evaporation HP can concentrate) on organic materials such as paper, fabrics, cotton, leather, wood or other combustibles can cause the material to ignite and result in a fire.

Health Effects

Consumer products containing HP typically range between 3% and 8% strength HP. The EU risk assessment concluded that concern at consumer exposure levels for acute toxicity, skin sensitization, repeated oral toxicity, mutagenicity, and carcinogenicity was not warranted for consumer applications.

Health hazard data for several concentrations of HP were collected for the EU risk assessment. This information is summarized below:

Acute toxicityAcute toxicity - Due to the corrosive nature of HP, inhalation of concentrated aerosols is a concern. HP should not be ingested and has caused lethality through accidental ingestion of 30%-40% solutions. The current recommended occupational exposure limit (ACGIH TLV) for HP is 1.4 mg/m3 or 1 ppm.

Irritation, Corrosivity and Sensitivity  Animal studies indicate that HP concentrations of 10% were slightly irritating to the skin, 35% concentrations were considered to be moderately irritating, while 50% and higher concentrations were severely irritating and corrosive.  Eye irritation has been reported in humans in 5% - 10% concentrations. At higher concentrations HP is extremely irritating/corrosive to eyes. The irritation threshold for HP aerosols is 10 mg/3 (7 ppm) for inhalation and 20 mg/m3 (14 ppm) for skin contact.

Chronic Toxicity Several repeated dose toxicity studies in animals via oral and inhalation exposure routes have been reviewed. An oral No Observed Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) of 26-37 mg/kg of bodyweight was determined from local effects on the gastrointestinal tract and reductions in food and water consumption in a 90-day drinking water study. An inhalation NOAEL of 2.9 mg/m3 was derived in a 28-day rat study. Available studies do not support significant genotoxicity or mutagenicity. HP is considered to be non-carcinogenic as animal studies indicate no carcinogenic effects that are considered to be relevant to humans.

Reproductive ToxicityDue to rapid degradation of HP in tissues and blood yielding oxygen and water, HP is unlikely to be systemically available to developing embryos or fetuses.

Environmental Effects

The EU risk assessment included a quantitative risk assessment for aquatic organisms and microorganisms. This assessment and other information concluded that further testing was not warranted for aquatic, sediment, terrestrial, or atmospheric compartments of the environment.

Environmental FateHP is normally a short-lived substance when exposed to the environment, but persistence in the environment can vary greatly depending on specific environmental conditions. The atmospheric half-life is approximately 24 hours. Volatilization of HP from surface waters and moist soil is expected to be very low. HP is expected to be highly mobile in soil. No bioaccumulation is expected due to HP’s reactivity.

Aquatic and Terrestrial Toxicity Predicted toxicity values are considered low, and the EU risk assessment concluded that no additional testing was needed to adequately characterize aquatic and terrestrial toxicity. HP concentrations of 30% or greater are toxic to birds, mammals, fish and aquatic life. Industrial effluents containing these concentrations should not be directly discharged into any waters unless in accordance with any requirements of a permitting authority.

Exposure Potential

The irritation potential of aqueous solutions of HP depends on concentration. The splashing of strong solutions to the eye (>5%) and skin (>35%) should be avoided. Hand wash solutions containing HP should not cause concern given that these solutions are not contact sensitizers and that the concentrations of HP in these solutions are well below irritation levels.

An accident may occur if HP is inappropriately stored in a container with a tight stopper. Overpressure could be generated in the container due to slow decomposition of the HP, and there is the possibility that the container may break, rupturing violently. HP can decompose when exposed to heat and/or contaminants releasing energy as part of a self-accelerating decomposition reaction. HP is very stable when stored in clean, compatible containers and handled in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Risk Management

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and other product handling and disposal instructions for HP are available from all HP producers. Refer to the SDS for additional information and personal protective equipment recommendations. Industrial spills of HP may be disposed by diluting the spill with a large amount of water and allowing the HP to decompose followed by discharge into a treatment system approved by regulatory agencies. All appropriate regulatory agencies should be contacted prior to disposal.

Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warnings in 2006 against the ingestion of HP2,3. The sales of HP via the internet pose potential safe handling, transportation, and security concerns. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) “Information Bulletin” dated October 21, 2004 describes a security concern for distribution of hydrogen peroxide at concentrations of 35% and greater. The Information Bulletin notes: “Hydrogen peroxide at concentrations greater than 30% can react violently with flammable hydrocarbons and transition metals” with the presence of a suitable catalyst. Although regulations may permit hydrogen peroxide shipments by air, the specific hazards associated with strong oxidizers such as hydrogen peroxide make it inadvisable.


1 Recommended Guidance on Bulk Transportation Security Practices for Hydrogen Peroxide”, American Chemistry Council Hydrogen Peroxide Panel.
3 FDA Warns Consumers Against Drinking High-Strength Hydrogen Peroxide For Medicinal Use


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