Fact Sheet for Hydrogen Peroxide
This fact sheet answers questions about hydrogen peroxide. For more information, call Oregon Hazardous Substance Incident Surveillance (HSIS) at 971-673-0977.
It is important to understand this information because hydrogen peroxide is a potentially dangerous substance. The harmful effects of this substance depend on several factors: your age, the amount and length of time of exposure, the exposure (you breathed it in or it got on your skin) and whether or not other chemicals are present.1
What is hydrogen peroxide?
At room temperature hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid. Pure hydrogen peroxide is usually diluted in water. Small amounts of hydrogen peroxide gas may occur naturally in the air.
Where is hydrogen peroxide found?
In the home, hydrogen peroxide is usually found in low concentrations - typically 3% to 9% (3 parts hydrogen peroxide and 97 parts water). These concentrations are found in disinfectants, chlorine-free bleaches, fabric stain removers and hair dyes. Higher concentrations (35%) are sometimes used in the home as natural treatments for a variety of medical conditions.2
In industry, high concentrations (10% or greater) are used as a substance to bleach fabric and paper, a component of rocket fuel, and to produce foam rubber and chemicals.
How might I be exposed?
- Working in industry where hydrogen peroxide is used
- Breathing contaminated air or coming into contact with the substance from a spill or release
- Improperly using or storing solutions of hydrogen peroxide in the home
What will hydrogen peroxide do to me?
Inhaling low concentrations can cause respiratory irritation; higher concentrations can cause severe respiratory irritation.
Swallowing low concentrations may cause vomiting, gastrointestinal inflammation and, on rare occasions, blockage of blood vessels by air bubbles. Ingestions of higher concentration may cause burns, loss of consciousness, respiratory problems and death. Deaths in both adults and children have been reported with ingestion of 35% hydrogen peroxide.2
Eye contact with 3% sodium hydroxide may result in pain and irritation. Exposure to higher concentrations may result in an ulcer or eye damage. Skin contact with low concentrations (3-9%) can cause irritation and temporary bleaching of the skin and hair. Concentrated solutions may cause severe skin burns with blisters.
Children may be more vulnerable to hydrogen peroxide.1
How can I protect myself?
In the event of a spill or release, follow instructions given by emergency responders or local authorities (i.e. shelter in place, evacuation, etc.). Follow precautions and instructions for handling substances that contain hydrogen peroxide (i.e. wear protective clothing such as gloves and eye protection). Keep products out of reach of children. Keep products in original packaging.
In case of an emergency, contact your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911 emergency services.
Inhalation: move to fresh air. Begin rescue breathing (using proper respiratory medical device) if breathing has stopped and CPR if heart has stopped. Get medical attention right away.
Skin contact: remove contaminated clothing. Rinse area of skin with running water for at least 30 minutes. Get medical attention right away.
Eye contact: rinse the whites of eyes with running water for at least 30 minutes, lifting upper and lower lids. If possible, remove contact lenses while rinsing. Get medical attention right away.
Ingestion: do not make person vomit.3 Call Oregon Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 or seek medical attention immediately.
Where can I find more information?
Oregon Hazardous Substances Incidence Surveillance program
Other sources of information include:
- Local health department
- Oregon Poison Center: Phone 1-800-222-1222
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,ToxFAQs™ for Hydrogen Peroxide (English and Spanish)
- New Jersey Department of Health, Right to Know Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets for Hydrogen Peroxide (English and Spanish)
- U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Emergency Response Guide Book (English and Spanish)
This document was supported by funds from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) trust fund provided to the Oregon Health Authority under Cooperative Agreement #5U61/TS000130-02 from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
1Medical Management Guidelines for hydrogen peroxide, Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry
2Can Journal of Gastroenterology. 2007.October;21(10):665-667
3Oregon Poison Center, 2011