Oxidation of ferrous orthophenanthroline (FeP) by peroxydiphosphate (PP) in aqueous medium at pH 1 was followed spectrophotometrically. Kinetic analysis has shown that oxidation occurs via the formation of an intermediate complex between FeP and PP. Equi‐librium and rate constants were calculated. Influence of surfactants on the oxidation of FeP by PP was also Investigated. The equilibrium constant for complex formation was found to be higher in the presence of surfactants. The enhanced complex formation has been attributed to the ionic interactions between the charged surfactant and the ionic species in the reaction medium. Polymerization of HEMA initiated by the redox system,FeP/PP, was carried out in aqueous medium, under the conditions of excess reductant over oxidant and excess oxidant over reductant. The polymerization followed different mech‐anisms under these conditions; with excess oxidant, the growing polymer radicals underwent oxidative termination, while with excess reductant, primary radical termination was pre‐ferred. The effect of surfactants on the aqueous polymerization of HEMA using the redox system FeP/PP was also investigated. In addition to the decrease in rate, the polymerization followed a different mechanism in the presence of surfactants, the growing radicals ter‐minated by mutual interaction. © 1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.