What is the white phosphorus that struck Gaza? And the necessary first aid in the event of exposure

2023-10-15 2023-10-15T20:18:24Z
طقس العرب
طقس العرب
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Arabia Weather - White phosphorus is an easily flammable waxy solid used in the manufacture of chemical and smoke munitions. Exposure of skin or tissue to white phosphorus can cause burns and irritation, and can cause damage to organs such as the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and bones. In some serious cases, exposure to white phosphorus can lead to death.

What is white phosphorus?

White phosphorus is a molecule consisting of four phosphorus atoms. It is a toxic brown, waxy, crystalline substance that usually appears colorless or white or yellow, and appears noticeably darker when exposed to light. It has a garlic-like odor, but this odor should not be relied upon as a means of detecting the presence of white phosphorus. White phosphorus is made artificially from phosphate ores and often reacts with oxygen rapidly at temperatures about 10 to 15 degrees above room temperature.

What are the uses of white phosphorus?

White phosphorus is used militarily in wars as an incendiary agent in the manufacture of a variety of munitions, and also in the production of smoke for use in confusing and concealing the movements of military forces and identifying targets. White phosphorus is also used in various industries to produce phosphoric acid and other chemicals. Phosphoric acid is used in the manufacture of fertilisers, food additives and cleaning compounds. In the past, small amounts of white phosphorus were used in pesticides and fireworks.

How can I be exposed to white phosphorus?

  1. Inhaling air contaminated with white phosphorus.
  2. Contact with soil contaminated with white phosphorus.
  3. Drinking from or swimming in water contaminated with white phosphorus.
  4. Eating contaminated fish or birds from sites containing white phosphorus.
  5. Working in industrial or military fields where white phosphorus is used.

Does white phosphorus affect human health?

  • Immediate effects of white phosphorus

When exposed to high levels of white phosphorus for a brief period through ingestion, inhalation, skin or eyes, the effects of ingestion can occur in three stages:

  1. The first stage: It appears in the time period between minutes and eight hours after exposure to white phosphorus. The effects of this stage are focused on the digestive system and can be severe and include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In some cases, symptoms can become serious enough to be life-threatening and lead to death within 24 to 48 hours.
  2. The second stage: follows the first stage and is characterized by the absence of symptoms. It lasts from eight hours to about two days.
  3. The third stage: This stage begins 4 to 8 days after the start of the second stage. This stage is very dangerous and is characterized by negative effects on many body systems such as the digestive system, kidneys, liver, cardiovascular, and central nervous system. It can deteriorate a person's condition and may be fatal.

However, if a person is exposed to white phosphorus through inhalation, it leads to respiratory irritation and coughing.

Exposure to white phosphorus through the skin may cause severe and serious necrotic burns. These burns are usually yellow in color and glow under ultraviolet rays. In addition, white phosphorus can cause a garlic-like odor, but it should be noted that smell should not be relied upon as a means of detecting the presence of white phosphorus, as the serious health effects of exposure to white phosphorus could be more significant.

  • The chronic effects of exposure to white phosphorus are severe on the health system and include:
  1. ​Phossy jaw necrosis : This disease is the result of chronic exposure to white phosphorus fumes, and causes deterioration and damage to the bones in the jaw and mouth. It can initially appear as local inflammation or irritation, then progress to swelling, ulcerations, and destruction of the bones of the jaw and mouth, with holes in the nose, sinuses, or cheek.
  2. General Disability: Chronic exposure to white phosphorus can lead to global disability and a negative impact on an individual's overall health.
  3. Bronchitis: White phosphorus can cause inflammation of the bronchial tubes, leading to respiratory problems and symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing.
  4. Anemia: Chronic exposure to white phosphorus can lead to a decrease in hemoglobin levels in the blood, resulting in anemia.
  5. Physical wasting and malnutrition: Chronic exposure to white phosphorus can cause physical weakness and malnutrition due to negative effects on health and nutrition.

First aid for white phosphorus grenades

If a person is exposed to white phosphorus through the eyes, it is best to take the following measures:

  1. Immediately, move the injured person away from the source of exposure.
  2. Wash eyes well using plenty of cold water for at least 15 minutes.
  3. It is preferable to cover the eyes with wet compresses to prevent any white phosphorus particles from re-igniting.
  4. Avoid applying any ointment that has an oil or greasy basis, as it can increase the absorption of white phosphorus.
  5. Then, seek medical attention immediately to evaluate the damage and receive necessary treatment.

If a person is exposed to white phosphorus through ingestion, the following actions should be taken:

  1. Move the casualty away from the source of exposure.
  2. Check that the victim's airway is not obstructed.
  3. Do not induce vomiting.
  4. Monitor heart function and evaluate blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate to check for any abnormalities.
  5. Evaluate blood sugar levels, electrolytes, and blood oxygen levels to make sure there are no abnormal changes.
  6. If you notice any evidence of shock or low blood pressure, intravenous fluids may need to be given.
  7. Contact medical care immediately to provide the necessary aid and treatment.

If a person is exposed to white phosphorus by inhalation, the following actions should be taken:

  1. Move the casualty away from the source of exposure.
  2. Assess breathing and pulse to check respiratory and cardiac function.
  3. Make sure the victim's airway is not blocked.
  4. Give oxygen if there is difficulty or shortness of breath.
  5. If breathing stops (apnea), you may need artificial respiration using a respiratory barrier.
  6. Monitor the injured person to ensure that there is no respiratory depression or fluid accumulation in the lungs (pneumonia).
  7. Contact Medicare immediately to obtain necessary medical treatment.

If a person is exposed to white phosphorus through the skin, the following measures should be taken:

  1. Immediately, move the injured person away from the source of exposure.
  2. Immerse the affected areas of skin in cold water or keep them covered with wet bandages for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Irrigate the skin vigorously with cold water to remove white phosphorus embedded in the skin. Avoid using hot water.
  4. Remove visible particles of white phosphorus carefully and use personal protective equipment such as gloves.
  5. Monitor the victim's body temperature to notice a drop in temperature as a result of cold water.
  6. Any removed particles should be placed in a bowl of cold water to reduce the risk of medical staff being exposed to the material.
  7. Avoid using an oil-based or greasy ointment, as it can increase the absorption of white phosphorus.
  8. Monitor the victim for any general signs of white phosphorus poisoning.
  9. Contact Medicare immediately to obtain necessary medical treatment.


Source: Medical

This article was written originally in Arabic and is translated using a 3rd party automated service. ArabiaWeather is not responsible for any grammatical errors whatsoever.
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