Presence of hydrogen peroxide, a source of hydroxyl radicals, in acid electrolyzed water

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e46392. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046392. Epub 2012 Sep 28.


Background: Acid electrolyzed water (AEW), which is produced through the electrolysis of dilute sodium chloride (NaCl) or potassium chloride solution, is used as a disinfectant in various fields because of its potent antimicrobial activity. The hydroxyl radical, an oxygen radical species, is often suggested as a putative active ingredient for AEW antimicrobial activity.

Methodology/principal findings: The aim of the present study is to detect hydroxyl radicals in AEW. The hydroxyl radicals in AEW prepared under different conditions were determined using an electron spin resonance (ESR) technique. A signal from 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline N-oxide (DMPO)-OH, an adduct of DMPO and the hydroxyl radical, was detected in AEW prepared by double or triple electrolyses of 1% NaCl but not of 0.1% NaCl solution. Then the presence of hydrogen peroxide as a proposed source of hydroxyl radicals was examined using a combination of ESR and a Fenton reaction. The DMPO-OH signal was clearly detected, even in AEW prepared by single electrolysis of 0.1% NaCl solution, when ferrous sulfate was added to induce a Fenton reaction, indicating the presence of hydrogen peroxide in the AEW. Since sodium formate, a hydroxyl radical scavenger, did not affect the bactericidal activity of AEW, it is concluded that the radical is unlikely to contribute to the antimicrobial activity of AEW, although a small amount of the radical is produced from hydrogen peroxide. Dimethyl sulfoxide, the other hydroxyl radical scavenger used in the present study, canceled the bactericidal activity of AEW, accompanied by complete depletion of free available chlorine, suggesting that hypochlorous acid is probably a major contributor to the antimicrobial activity.

Conclusions: It is strongly suggested that although hydrogen peroxide is present in AEW as a source of hydroxyl radicals, the antimicrobial activity of AEW does not depend on these radicals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / drug effects
  • Bacillus subtilis / growth & development
  • Chlorine / chemistry*
  • Chlorine / pharmacology
  • Cyclic N-Oxides / chemistry
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide / chemistry
  • Disinfectants / chemistry*
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology
  • Electrolysis
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Ferrous Compounds / chemistry
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Hydroxyl Radical / chemistry*
  • Hypochlorous Acid / chemistry*
  • Hypochlorous Acid / pharmacology
  • Microbial Viability / drug effects
  • Sodium Chloride / chemistry
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development


  • Cyclic N-Oxides
  • Disinfectants
  • Ferrous Compounds
  • Hydroxyl Radical
  • ferrous sulfate
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Chlorine
  • 2,2-dimethyl-5-hydroxy-1-pyrrolidinyloxy
  • Hypochlorous Acid
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide

Grant support

This research was supported by the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Japan, Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C), 23590144, 2011. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.