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Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.
Shown here are four representations chemists use for hydrogen peroxide. In the colored models, hydrogen is white and oxygen is red.
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Windows to the Universe original artwork by Randy Russell.

Hydrogen Peroxide - H2O2

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a chemical compound consisting of two oxygen atoms and two hydrogen atoms. It is a clear liquid at normal temperatures and pressures. Hydrogen peroxide is a very reactive chemical.

Dilute solutions of hydrogen peroxide are used to disinfect wounds. It can also be used to bleach human hair, hence the term "peroxide blonde". About half the world's production of this chemical is used to bleach pulp and paper products. Hydrogen peroxide has an advantage over some other bleaching agents in that its decomposition products, oxygen and water, are not pollutants. Hydrogen peroxide is sometimes employed as an oxidizer in rocket motors.

Hydrogen peroxide is a natural end product of chemistry that goes on in Earth's atmosphere.† It is normally present in very small quantities.† But sometimes, when a lot of hydrocarbons are emitted in warm moist climates, hydrogen peroxide abundance can increase dramatically.† Hydrogen peroxide can survive for several days if it is not removed from the air by precipitation.† During its travels, it will undergo chemical reactions.† One example is the oxidation of sulfur trioxide (SO3) into sulfuric acid (H2SO4), making acid rain.

Last modified February 8, 2006 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA