Hydrogen Peroxide (H 2 O 2 )

Monitoring Your Environment

What You Should Know About Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) is a highly corrosive strongly oxidizing chemical that is used as a biocide/sterilant and bleaching agent. Hydrogen Peroxide sterilization is effective because it is a strong oxidizing agent that breaks down into oxygen and water leaving no harmful residues. Hydrogen Peroxide sterilization is widely used in healthcare for sterile processing (especially as a low temperature sterilant for heat and moisture sensitive items that come in contact with patients) and in food processing for aseptic filling/packaging. Hydrogen Peroxide sterilization also finds extensive use for bleaching textiles and paper. However, despite its usefulness, H2O2 can be potentially hazardous to any workers overexposed to it or any workers that are exposed to dangerous levels.

Applications for Hydrogen Peroxide sterilization:

  • Sterilization of medical instruments and packs
  • Aseptic packaging and bottling
  • Anti-microbial fogging
  • Bleaching agent
 Keep your employees safe by monitoring for hydrogen peroxide.

What are the dangers of Hydrogen Peroxide sterilization?

There are a number of dangers to users of Hydrogen Peroxide that everyone should be aware of. One difficult factor is that Hydrogen Peroxide has no smell at low concentrations, making it impossible for workers to know if they are being exposed based on smell alone. This is a big danger of Hydrogen Peroxide because you would never know if you are being overexposed to it, by scent (or any other human sense) alone. The only way to know for sure that you and your workers are or are not being exposed to unsafe levels of H2O2 is with a continuous monitoring system. Compelling trends between discoveries of Ethylene Oxide dangers and Hydrogen Peroxide dangers, create major cause to be concerned. Inhalation of Hydrogen Peroxide vapors from concentrated (higher than 10%) solutions may result in severe pulmonary irritation.

There is a common myth about Hydrogen Peroxide sterilization stating that it is less dangerous than Ethylene Oxide, but that’s simply not true.  It is simply less researched. It has the same OSHA PEL and ACGIH TLV of 1ppm as EtO, but it has a lower NIOSH IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health) of 75 ppm for H2O2 and 800 ppm for EtO. The two chemicals also share a variety of negative health effects.

  • Eye irritation : eye damage after prolonged exposure

  • Nose and throat irritation

  • Respiratory distress : fluid in the lungs after high level
    of exposure

  • Skin irritation dermatitis

  • Skin burns

  • Skin and hair bleaching

  • Animal carcinogen with unknown relevance to humans

    Regulations & Industry Standards for Hydrogen Peroxide Sterilization

    Exposure limits and guidelines when using hydrogen peroxide have been set by a number of governmental regulatory agencies and international standards organizations:

    OSHA: Occupational and Safety Health Administration
    OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL):  1.0 ppm (8 Hr TWA)

    NIOSH: National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
    NIOSH Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH):  75 ppm

    JC: Joint Commission
    Joint Commission Standard EC.02.02.01

    : American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienist
    ACGIH Threshold Limit Values TLV
    :  1.0 ppm

    OSHA Hazard Communications 29 CFR 1910.1200

    : Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrument
    AAMI ST:41:1999 and ST:58:2013

    UK HSE
    : United Kingdom Health & Safety Executive
    UK HSE Long-Term
    : 1 ppm  UK HSE Short-term: 2 ppm

    Monitoring solutions for Hydrogen Peroxide.

    How ChemDAQ can help to protect your workers and your business by monitoring for Hydrogen Peroxide sterilization.

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