Hydrogen peroxide

CAS RN: 7722-84-1

Toxicity Summary

IDENTIFICATION AND USE: Hydrogen peroxide is a colorless liquid. It is an oxidizing agent which, in the presence of organic matter or if permitted to become alkaline, vigorously decomposes to oxygen and water. Hydrogen peroxide is used as a 6% solution for bleaching hair, and some disinfectant solutions for contact lenses contain a 3% hydrogen peroxide. Chlorine-free bleaches contain 6% hydrogen peroxide. Some newer fabric stain removers and bleaches contain 5% to 15% hydrogen peroxide. Industrial strengths of hydrogen peroxide are manufactured up to 90%. They are used mainly as bleaching and oxidizing agents. Solutions of 90% are used as rocket fuel. HUMAN STUDIES: The dissociation of hydrogen peroxide is a violent and exothermic reaction. Ingestion results in gastrointestinal irritation, the severity of which depends on the concentration of the solution. There is also a risk for a gas embolism. A number of deaths have been reported in the literature. In most cases the exposures were to concentrated solutions of 30% to 40%. Other reactions include vomiting (the vomitus may be frothy due to the liberation of oxygen), hematemesis, burning of the throat, and gastric distension due to the release of oxygen. Lethargy, coma, convulsions, shock and respiratory arrest have also been reported. Gastrointestinal bleeding and burns to the stomach and duodenum may occur. In severe cases ischemic ECG changes and EMD (electromechanical dissociation) may be observed because of embolization of the heart restricting blood flow. Hydrogen peroxide is an irritant to the skin with paraesthesia, blistering and whitening; solutions >10% may cause burns. Hydrogen peroxide is irritating to the eyes with a burning sensation, conjunctival hyperemia, lacrimation, and severe pain which resolves within a few hours. There are rare cases of temporary corneal injury resulting from the application of 3% solution to the eye on contact lenses including punctuate staining of the cornea, decreased vision, corneal opacity and edema. Cerebral infarction resulting from gas embolization of the cerebral vasculature has been reported in an 84-year-old man. Multiple brain embolisms occurred in a 63-year-old who ingested hydrogen peroxide. DNA strand breaks and chromosomal aberrations were studied in human cells treated with hydrogen peroxide. DNA strand breaks could be produced at dose levels of hydrogen peroxide much lower than those which induced chromosomal aberrations. ANIMAL STUDIES: After ip injection of 0.5 mL of 5% hydrogen peroxide into adult mice, a radiation-like effect was observed; pyknotic nuclei were induced in the intestine and thymus within 2 hr and persisted for up to 24 hr. In rabbits and cats that died after iv administration of hydrogen peroxide, the lungs were found to be pale and emphysematous, with considerable amounts of gas in the great veins and in the right side of the heart. Application of a drop of 10 to 30% to rabbit's eye caused superficial corneal haze, and, if there were defects in the epithelium, could cause localized swelling and opacities in the corneal stroma. Also, 5% solution caused superficial corneal haze and much conjunctival reaction, but these effects were gone in 24 hr. Hydrogen peroxide was mutagenic to Salmonella typhimurium TA92 and TA102 and was positive in a forward mutation test in Salmonella typhimurium SV50. Single strand scissions were produced in T7 DNA upon incubation with hydrogen peroxide in aqueous solution at neutral pH. ECOTOXICITY STUDIES: Hydrogen peroxide was not teratogenic in Xenopus developing embryos.
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