The bubbling reaction of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide is oxygen being released as a gas. Hydrogen peroxide becomes water and oxygen when it comes in contact with the enzyme catalase. A wound (blood and damaged cells) contains ample amounts of catalase, which converts the hydrogen peroxide at a rate of 200,000 reactions per second.
While 3 percent hydrogen peroxide is not a good disinfectant, stronger solutions have more serious applications. The Environmental Protection Agency approved 30 percent hydrogen peroxide as a pesticide for anthrax spore contamination after scientific studies showed that the product would reduce bacterial spores under specific conditions with no adverse effects on the environment. The decontamination was a response to the terrorist attacks of 2001, when anthrax-containing letters were mailed to various places in the eastern United States, explains the EPA.
However, even in lower concentrations such as 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, there are associated health risks. When the skin absorbs hydrogen peroxide, it can reduce the number of fibroblasts, which are cells needed for repairing damaged tissue, according to Medical Daily. Hydrogen peroxide should not be taken internally and should be used sparingly as a dental whitener, according to the National Capital Poison Center. Hydrogen peroxide is no longer recommended to disinfect skin wounds, according to the National Poison Center, as research has shown it can damage cells needed for wound healing.