Issue 14

Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide

The Human Body

Hydrogen peroxide is produced by numerous enzymes in the body. Particularly, some enzymes breaking down certain amino acids and fatty acids make significant amounts of hydrogen peroxide. Because hydrogen peroxide can be damaging to regular body tissue, these enzymes are stored inside specialized organelles inside cells called peroxisomes. The peroxisomes also contain large amounts of catalase to break down the hydrogen peroxide before it can diffuse.

Additionally, recent scientific examination of the cell cultures in human hair verifies that the cause of grey hair associated with human ageing is due to a substantial accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicle. The hydrogen peroxide inhibits the synthesis of melanin, essentially bleaching the hair pigment from within.

The effect of hydrogen peroxide on contact with skin 1


Aesthetical and Cosmetic Uses

Ordinarily, hydrogen peroxide is used to bleach hair, skin and teeth due to its properties as an oxidising bleach which allows it to break the chemical bonds of a chromophore. A chromophore is the part of a molecule responsible for its colour, subsequently this changes the molecule into a different substance that either does not contain a chromophore, or contains a chromophore that does not absorb visible light. On contact with the epidermal layer of skin it causes a capillary embolism which causes temporary whitening. However, during numerous laboratory studies, hydrogen peroxide was shown to damage skin cells in a process known as oxidative stress; a process associated with Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.Its inclusion in many cosmetics may also be due to its role as a preservative – it has antimicrobial properties which help kill or inhibit the growth or reproduction of microorganisms.

Industrial Uses

Hydrogen peroxide is becoming an increasingly popular choice in pulp bleaching processes due to the replacement of chlorinated bleaches with environmentally friendly bleach products. In the pulp and paper industry, hydrogen peroxide is used in three areas: for bleaching of cellulose, pulp bleaching, and for re-cycling waste paper (removing ink and colour from the paper).

Hydrogen peroxide has been used for years as a chemical treatment in municipal water systems. It has several benefits, including iron and hydrogen sulfide removal and the neutralization of tastes and odours.

Use in the textile industry is declining. In full bleaching, hydrogen peroxide is used before dyeing and for the oxidation of reductive dyes in dyeing. However, in general, hydrogen peroxide consumption for bleaching is increasing because it is seen as an environmentally harmless alternative to chlorine-based bleaches.

The process in which hydrogen peroxide is used as a bleaching agent for paper 2


Domestic Uses

Due to its bleaching and antimicrobial properties, it is a popular household cleaning product and features as an ingredient in many.

Holistic and Medicinal

Although its medicinal benefits are yet to be proven scientifically, it is widely used as a holistic cure for many illnesses.

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