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Thread: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

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    Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    I'm asking this on behalf of a friend that came to me with something that happened to him yesterday. He went swimming in his community pool in his neighborhood for the first time this year, and when he got home he had water in his ear. He got out some Hydrogen Peroxide (as he has done many times in the past) and put a few drops in his ear to help get the water out. He said he typically likes to use IPA, but didn't have any yesterday so went with H202.

    A few minutes after putting the drops in his ear, his finger tips became white and started to burn. He felt like his finger prints were burning off. He then ran his hands under some water and washed them with soap for a few minutes and everything was better. No more stains or burning. Luckily, inside his ear didn't burn at all.

    I told him to call the pool and see what they use to chlorinate, and he said they use Sodium Hypochlorite every Sunday night (so he was almost an entire week away from the last addition of that) and chlorine tabs during the week. They didn't specify between dichlor and trichlor tabs so I'm not sure there.

    Does anybody know what might've happened to him? I know H202 can be used to reduce the chlorine in your pool, so was it possibly this reaction occurring on his finger tips? I've read that it is an exothermic reaction so that's the heat part I guess? And it produces salt so we have the white film. But I could be totally off. Maybe it wasn't even reacting with the chlorine but some other chemical in the pool. I know Calcium Hardness in water puts off a bunch of heat, but I'm not sure what it does with H202.

    Any input from some of you chemistry gurus is appreciated. Thanks guys!
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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    What concentration is the peroxide?
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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    He said he's not sure. He bought the standard stuff at the store and that's what he was using. First-aid type peroxide.
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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    I'd expect his fingertips were slightly raw from something, but that is just a guess. Rough pool surface? H202 is a pretty good oxidizer, but the concentration sold for first aid use is mostly water.
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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    Provided purely as academic information:

    This is not an uncommon reaction to Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) {edit... between the skin and the H2O2 -WC} at even fairly dilute concentrations such as commonly found over the counter (3% to 10%). {edit... I doubt that there was any reactive chlorine by the time he handled the H2O2. -WC}

    More than likely the skin was already damaged in some way before the contact with the H2O2 solution (perhaps even water logged).

    If the damage is extensive, looks red or irritated, becomes infected, etc... then he needs to seek medical attention ASAP.

    -wc
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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    This is not an uncommon reaction to Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)
    You mean the reaction between the peroxide and the chlorine still on his skin? I know I threw that out there as a possibility, but I was wondering if you are confirming that's what actually happened.
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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    Quote Originally Posted by brajgreg
    This is not an uncommon reaction to Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)
    You mean the reaction between the peroxide and the chlorine still on his skin? I know I threw that out there as a possibility, but I was wondering if you are confirming that's what actually happened.
    Sorry, re-reading that, I wasn't very clear was I... sigh.
    This is a reaction between the skin and the H2O2.
    I'll edit that.

    -wc
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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    I've had hydrogen peroxide do the same thing to my fingers. It feels just like when you get acid on your skin kind of an intense tingly burning feeling with a white residue left behind. I allways thought it was just random but I guess theres got to be a reason for it.
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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    Quote Originally Posted by Shane1
    I allways thought it was just random but I guess theres got to be a reason for it.
    Chemical burn. The H2O2 has "oxidized" the skin, burning it.
    The following has way more information than needed... what I'm after here is on page 5 of the document
    http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFil.../1246260031375
    ... Skin contact with dilute solutions of hydrogen peroxide may cause whitening or bleaching of the skin...
    What I have found with 3%H2O2 is contact time, location, and health of the skin will determine the amount of potential damage to the point of contact.
    -wc
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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    Quote Originally Posted by wetchem
    Quote Originally Posted by Shane1
    I allways thought it was just random but I guess theres got to be a reason for it.
    Chemical burn. The H2O2 has "oxidized" the skin, burning it.
    The following has way more information than needed... what I'm after here is on page 5 of the document
    http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFil.../1246260031375
    ... Skin contact with dilute solutions of hydrogen peroxide may cause whitening or bleaching of the skin...
    It doesnt get anymore cut and dry than that!
    I also found this tidbit on page 5 Hydrogen
    peroxide is a component in some types of
    rocket fuel as it is extremely reactive!
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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    I've had this problem when we used Baquacil every time I added Oxidizer to the water. Now I know why.

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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    I have experienced this before. H2O2 breaks down into 2H2O and O. That's water and oxygen, in case your chemistry is a little rusty. The white discolouration is the result of the extra O molecule getting trapped in small capillaries in your skin. It is an embolism. This is why H2O2 has been linked to slower healing times and has fallen out of favor as a post-operative debriding agent. I believe you can find the info on Wikipedia.

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    Re: Hydrogen Peroxide Reaction

    Welcome to TFP!

    According to the CDC in this fact sheet:

    Ingestion of dilute solutions of hydrogen peroxide may result in vomiting, mild gastrointestinal irritation, gastric distension, and on rare occasions, gastrointestinal erosions or embolism (blockage of blood vessels by air bubbles).
    while for skin:

    Skin contact can cause irritation and temporary bleaching of the skin and hair.
    There are reports of embolism from hydrogen peroxide, but mostly from ingestion or irrigation of damaged skin (see this link, this link, this link, and many others), not from exposure to intact skin. The whitening effect does not appear to have anything to do with an embolism.
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