The Role of Chemistry in History

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Uses 1

April 18th, 2008 · 1 Comment ·

IntroductionDiscoveryHow is it Made?

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Hydrogen Peroxide and HistoryHydrogen Peroxide and the Future

Around 2 million tons of hydrogen peroxide are made each year. About half of that is used to bleach wood pulp or paper. It is seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to chlorine-based bleaches. In domestic uses, it is used as a mixture with NaOH to bleach wooden surfaces. It is also used to bleach textiles.

Medically, hydrogen peroxide is used to disinfect skin, as it can kill bacteria by using its oxidizing power. When it comes into contact with a cut, it fizzes as oxygen is released, probably due to the action of catalase in the blood. Dilute H2O2 solution (around 3%) is used as a mouthwash, and also for cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses.

It also bleaches teeth and is a key ingredient in making glow sticks!


Controversially, it has been suggested that use of hydrogen peroxide solution – for example in very low concentrations intravenously – can be used as a therapy for cancer (“oxygen therapy”). The American Cancer Society says that there is nothing to support this, and that it may well be harmful.

Fun Fact: Hydrogen peroxide, if spilled on clothing (or other flammable materials), will preferentially evaporate water until the concentration reaches sufficient strength, then clothing will spontaneously ignite.

Tags: Hydrogen Peroxide