Don’t Drink Hydrogen Peroxide

Hopefully, most of you who read the title are thinking, ‘No duh. Why would I drink hydrogen peroxide?’

If you thought that, good. You’re done, you don’t need to read on.

Still reading? Ok, so you’ve probably seen websites on the internet pushing hydrogen peroxide as a cure for… well, dozens of things, but mostly for the lung disease COPD. A diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depending on how severe, can be a sentence to a slow death by suffocation. Unsurprisingly, those sentenced don’t want to accept that they will die slowly suffocating, and look for solutions. Enter websites claiming a cure! Pay only $40 (and what’s $40 when life is on the line?) and you have access to the solution to your insoluble problem.

Happily, these scammers aren’t competent scammers, and their ‘cure’ is comes up in Google search results. What’s the cure? Drinking hydrogen peroxide.

Now. I saw this and freaked out. As a science teacher, I encounter hydrogen peroxide frequently throughout the year. And I understand that it’s toxic… in fact a toxic byproduct of cellular respiration that must be compartmentalised in the cell and carefully broken down by an enzyme called catalase. I’m very familiar with catalase. I extract it from potatoes and use it to demonstrate rate-of-reaction and function-of-enzymes in senior biology classes. Catalase causes hydrogen peroxide to decompose (a chemical term meaning break down from one molecule into two or more) into water and oxygen. Pour hydrogen peroxide into your wound, and the catalase released from the broken cells will act as a catalyst and speed up the hydrogen peroxide decomposition reaction. This reaction is violent, and may cause more cells burst and die. Catalase is reused, over and over, until the hydrogen peroxide wears out. So, unless you have no other disinfectant with you and you know there are dangerous bacteria around, don’t pour hydrogen peroxide into an open wound. You likely kill more cells than you save, and may indeed increase the chance of infection and scarring.

If you shouldn’t pour hydrogen peroxide on an open wound, you should definitely not pour it into your mouth.

Read this joke aloud.

‘Two men walk into a bar.

The first says to the bartender, “A glass of H2O please.”

The bartender passes the man a glass of water, and the man drinks, and is satisfied.

The second man says, “A glass of H2O, too.”

The bartender passes the man a glass. The man drinks, and dies.’

Get it? It’s a pun on too and two. The bartender heard a request for H2O2, hydrogen peroxide, and so killed the man. Yeah, yeah, I just explained the joke and just killed any joy you had in reading it. Sorry, I felt it was worth taking joy from your life to also take hydrogen peroxide out of your stomach.

People, we even have a joke about a man dying from drinking this stuff! Don’t do it.

It seems clear from my readings that people are actually drinking this stuff… or at least claiming to drink hydrogen peroxide on websites geared towards selling cures…of a dubious nature.

So what happens to the hydrogen peroxide (and your digestive system) when consumed? I was really intrigued and did a bit of reading. I still have more questions than answers, and those are here. Some biochem or medical student looking for a grad thesis should take a look, I have some excellent questions to pursue.

Still thinking of drinking hydrogen peroxide?

The CBC says it could kill you. And there is no evidence that drinking peroxide could cure you.

If you are suffering COPD, or another distressing ailment, I believe your time and money are better spent on evidence-backed treatments that reduce your symptoms. There is no miracle cure here. My sincere condolences.