White phosphorus is used in the manufacture of munitions, pyrotechnics, explosives, smoke bombs, in artificial fertilizers, and rodenticides. White phosphorus is extremely toxic to humans, while other forms of phosphorus are much less toxic.
It’s a chemical made from phosphate rocks. In solid form, it has a waxy texture and a garlic-like odor. It may be white or yellow in color, or clear (colorless).
White phosphorus is extremely toxic to humans. It can also be quite unstable. In some forms, it catches fire at just 10-15 degrees above room temperature in reaction to oxygen.
Manufacturers use white phosphorus to make products like computer chips, metal alloys, fertilizer, glow-in-the-dark paint, rat poison, and fireworks.
Some manufacturers and governments also use it to make military ammunition, including bombs.
White phosphorus bombs can cause injuries that are more serious and harder to treat than injuries from conventional bombs. Medical professionals need special training to deal with these types of injuries and to protect themselves from phosphorus burns during treatment.
How Do White Phosphorus Bombs Affect Humans?
White phosphorus bombs can have a worse effect on human health than other weapons of similar explosive power.
On the skin, white phosphorus causes very painful burns that may be second-degree (partial thickness of skin) to third-degree (full thickness of skin). The burns typically have a yellowish color and a garlic-like odor. You may notice smoke coming from the injury as the white phosphorus continues to burn.
In addition, because white phosphorus dissolves easily in fat, it gets absorbed easily through the skin and into the body, where it can cause other serious symptoms.
In fact, burns from white phosphorus on less than 10% of your body could lead to death because of damage to the kidneys, liver, and heart.