Phosphorus (yellow)

Agent Name
Phosphorus (yellow)
CAS Number
Major Category
Other Classes
Molecular phosphorus; P4; Phosphorus molecule (P4); Phosphorus tetraatomic molecule; Phosphorus tetramer; Tetraatomic phosphorus; Tetrameric phosphorus; White phosphorus; Yellow phosphorus; [ChemIDplus] UN1381
Phosphorus Compounds
White to yellow, soft, waxy solid with acrid fumes in air. (Note: Usually shipped or stored in water.) [NIOSH] Red and black phosphorus are less toxic allotropes that do not spontaneously combust in air. [Merck Index]
Used by the military for ammunition and incendiary devices; used by industry to produce phosphoric acid, fertilizers, food additives, and cleaning compounds; In the past small amounts of phosphorus were used for pesticides and fireworks. [ATSDR ToxFAQs] Red phosphorus is used to produce methamphetamine (meth labs). It is also used in luminous coatings, pyrotechnics, and fertilizers; [AHLS, p. 397] Phosphorus (P2O5, PBr3, PCl3, POCl3, PH3, and PF5) is used as a doping agent in semiconductor manufacturing. [CSH, p. 50]
Liquid or solid causes second or third degree burns after short contact; [CHRIS] Phosphorus is a respiratory irritant. Medical and dental surveillance in recent decades of a plant producing phosphorus and manufacturing fertilizer did not reveal any health effects caused by chronic phosphorus exposure. No "phossy jaw" (necrosis of the mandible) was found. Heavy industrial phosphorus exposure resulting in phossy jaw in the past was accompanied by liver and kidney injury according to some reports. [ACGIH] Inhalation of vapor may cause pulmonary edema. [ICSC] White phosphorus causes severe chemical burns. Systemic toxicity may include hypocalcemia. In warfare, white phosphorus often contaminates skin and wounds. Phosphorescent particles and fragments can be identified in a dark room, and they should be removed as soon as possible and placed under water. [AHLS, p. 393-406] "Red phosphorus is not well absorbed and has limited toxicity." [Olson, p. 373] Red phosphorus has limited toxicity. White phosphorus combusts in air and causes liver and kidney injury after ingestion. [Goldfrank, p. 1440]
Biomedical References

Exposure Assessment

Skin Designation (ACGIH)
Insufficient data
0.1 mg/m3
0.1 mg/m3
0.01 mg/m3, inhalable fraction
5 mg/m3
Excerpts from Documentation for IDLHs
Human data: Death has reportedly resulted from a single dose of 1 mg/kg [Smyth 1956]. Severe toxic symptoms have been reported following a single oral dose of 15 mg [Sollmann 1943]. However, survival of ingestion up to 1.5 grams have also been reported [Diza-Rivera et al. 1950; Newburger et al. 1948]. [Note: An oral dose of 15 mg is equivalent to a 70­kg worker being exposed to 10 mg/m3 for 30 minutes, assuming a breathing rate of 50 liters per minute and 100% absorption.]
Vapor Pressure
0.03 mm Hg
Explanatory Notes
The NFPA flammability code for "Phosphorus, amorphous" is 1 (must be preheated to burn) while the code for "Phosphorus, white, molten" is 4 (extremely flammable).
burn readily

Adverse Effects

Toxic Pneumonitis
Hepatoxic (a) from occupational exposure (secondary effect) or (b) in animal studies or in humans after ingestion
Skin burns

Diseases, Processes, and Activities Linked to This Agent


Industrial Processes with risk of exposure: