Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2, CAS No: 7722-84-1) is a high production volume (HPV) chemical, for which a European Union Risk Assessment has recently become available (European Commission, 2003). This EU risk assessment includes both an environmental risk assessment for the entire EU tonnage of hydrogen peroxide, and also human health risk assessments covering the use of several household cleaning products containing hydrogen peroxide which are within the scope of HERA.
Products used in HERA applications may contain between 4% and 8% hydrogen peroxide. The main application of those products is the bleaching of textiles in the washing machine, but the use of hydrogen peroxide in surface- or toilet cleaners has also been reported. These uses give rise to a variety of possible consumer contacts.
The EU Risk Assessment concludes that there is no need for further information and/or testing for acute toxicity, sensitisation, repeated oral toxicity, repeated dermal toxicity, mutagenicity and carcinogenicity for all exposure scenarios concerning consumers.
The only relevant potential human health concern identified by the EU Risk Assessment is that of skin and eye irritation. Concentrated solutions of hydrogen peroxide are irritant to skin and eyes. The irritation potential of aqueous solutions of hydrogen peroxide depends on concentration. Local effects of hand wash solutions containing hydrogen peroxide do not cause concern given that it is not a contact sensitiser and that the concentrations of hydrogen peroxide in such solutions are well below those expected to be irritating to eye or skin. Laundry pre-treatment or surface cleaning tasks, which may translate into brief hand skin contact with higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, may occasionally result in mild irritation easily avoided by prompt rinsing of the hands in water. Accidental spillage of neat product into the eye is to be avoided as can be expected to result in likely irritation.
In the view of the extensive database on toxic effects and the low exposure values in the intended use patterns of the HERA applications, it can be concluded that the use of Hydrogen peroxide in household cleaning products raises no safety concern for consumers.
A quantitative risk assessment was performed for aquatic organisms and microorganisms. The assessment concludes that there is no need for further information and/or testing for any of the generic scenarios. The conclusion that no further information or testing was required also applies to the sediment, terrestrial, and atmospheric compartments. Also, the conclusion that no further information or testing is required was found for the other consumer exposure scenarios. Thus, the uses of hydrogen peroxide in products which are covered by HERA are not a subject of concern in the EU, with regard to the environment.