Q:

Why does hydrogen peroxide bleach skin?

A:

Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizing agent commonly used as a bleach or whitening ingredient in various household products. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when mild concentrations of hydrogen peroxide come into contact with skin, it can temporarily cause irritation. Heavier concentrations of 10 percent or higher are considered highly corrosive to the skin, which can lead to strong irritation and thermal-type burns.

Hydrogen peroxide is diluted and added to common products such as toothpaste, teeth whitening preparations, hair dyes, fabric stain removers and all-purpose disinfectants. Hydrogen Peroxide is commonly used by medical professionals to clean certain wounds. The paper industry also uses high concentrations of this chemical to bleach paper white, among other industrial uses.

Individuals coming into contact with hydrogen peroxide should use caution, because it is potentially poisonous. Children who have sensitive skin are more susceptible to skin injuries from contact with hydrogen peroxide. They experience greater sensitivity when exposed to chemical irritants or bleaching agents, such as hydrogen peroxide.

In its natural state, hydrogen peroxide is colorless and odorless. Inhaling it poses the risk of experiencing breathing difficulties. In worst case scenarios, inhalation can lead to seizures, brain damage or death. Adults, seniors and children should take extra precautions to protect skin and lungs when this chemical is used in the home.


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