Handling Hydrogen Peroxide Solutions Safely

How safe are concentrated hydrogen peroxide solutions? Occasionally we learn about mishaps involving these solutions in the tripe and foot washing operations at processing plants.

Usually these incidents involve the mistaken addition of an alkaline liquid or other contaminant, to Birko Liquik Bleach, a 34% hydrogen peroxide solution. The contaminant causes the hydrogen peroxide to decompose very rapidly, liberating a large quantity of oxygen. The reaction can be so violent that the pressure inside the drum or tote increases to a level sufficient to burst the drum and spray its contents over the chemical storage area. If personnel are in the vicinity serious injury may result.

Birko safety training includes these guidelines to help processors avoid this situation.

  1. Hydrogen peroxide solutions are stable as long as they are kept clean and free of contamination. Alkalis, metals, organic materials, chlorine bleach and acids will all cause hydrogen peroxide to rapidly and violently decompose. Drum spears used in drums of hydrogen peroxide should be kept off the floor and free of contamination when changing out drums. If there is a suspicion of contamination, the spear should be washed with clean water before placing it in the new drum.
  2. Drums of hydrogen peroxide should always be properly vented (both bungs removed) to allow the oxygen that vents off the product to dissipate safely. A loose cover that prevents debris from entering the drum is OK. The danger comes when an evolution of gas is so large and so rapid that venting may not make a difference.
  3. Never, ever return chemicals that have been dispensed to a larger container. The risk of contamination or reaction following inadvertent mixing of incompatible materials is too great. Excess chemical that has been dispensed from a larger container should either be used in an appropriate manner or diluted and disposed of appropriately.

For more information on the safe handling of Birko Liquik Bleach, see the MSDS, located on our Customer Downloads page.

Elis Owens, Ph.D., Director, Technical Services, Birko, can be reached at [email protected], 303-289-1090.