Hydrogen peroxide, or H2O2, is a chemical that includes two atoms of hydrogen and two atoms of oxygen. This puts this chemical in stark contrast to the atomic makeup of water, which is two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. The extra oxygen atom creates a molecule that is highly unstable, since the extra oxygen atoms breaks apart easily. However, hydrogen peroxide has practical applications thanks to its atomic makeup.
Hydrogen peroxide is used for medical purposes. The chemical's volatile nature allows for rapid oxidation, a key aid to help heal wounds. However, the downside to hydrogen peroxide is that it disrupts the cellular integrity of tissue. For example, the immune systems in animals, including humans, will emit hydrogen peroxide against infected cells to destroy them. Although H2O2 is helpful medically, cells are often destroyed when the chemical is applied.
New studies by some medical doctors argue that because hydrogen peroxide destroys tissue and microscopic growths so well, the chemical can be used in various medical therapies. David Farr, a medical researcher in Oklahoma, has argued that hydrogen peroxide can be used to curtail cancer growth or AIDS. However, many doctors in the medical community and watchdog groups have argued that such claims involve incomplete medical research or are complete frauds.
Hydrogen peroxide is a natural disinfectant found in nature. Bacteria on surfaces are instantly killed when H2O2 is applied. Many consumer groups argue that hydrogen peroxide can be used to cleanse tools, such as toothbrushes, or silverware, like meat cutting utensils. Some consumer groups even suggest using hydrogen peroxide to clean stains; however, anyone who uses H2O2 to clean any surface needs to thoroughly wash it off.
Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to help whiten, or bleach, products. Some consumer groups have argued that a little hydrogen peroxide can help whiten teeth better. Other commercial uses for hydrogen peroxide include bleaching hair, clothes or surfaces. However, H2O2 must be used in moderation. Overusing hydrogen peroxide can lead to permanent bleach staining. If hydrogen peroxide is used on the body, such as in the mouth, then too much of it may induce vomiting.