These symptoms usually within 4 days but may be delayed up to 1-2 weeks C] Exposure to the eyes or skin may cause Irritation 0 Long-term exposure may cause anaemla, bronchltls, gastrointestinal disorders, peech and motor problems, toothache, weakness, weight loss, swelling and damage of the jaw bone and spontaneous fractures 0 Phosphine has not been associated with cancer 0 Phosphine is not likely to cause reproductive or developmental effects Environment 0 Dangerous for the Environment 0 Inform Environment Agency of substantial release incidents Prepared by L Assem & M Takamiya Institute of Environment and Health Cranfield University 2007 Version 1 Background Phosphine is a colourless gas, which is slightly heavier than air.
It usually smells of garlic or rotting fish due to the presence of ontaminants but pure phosphine is odourless. is extremely flammable and highly reactive with air, copper and copper-containing alloys. exposed to higher levels of phosphine, although occupational incidents involving exposure to phosphine are rare, and safety levels are in place to protect employees. Phosphine is rarely found in nature. Small amounts can be formed during the breakdown of organic matter, although it is rapidly degraded. Phosphine is released into the air via emissions from various manufacturing processes and from the use of metal (magnesium, aluminium and zinc) phosphide umigants and pesticides, which release phosphine on contact with water or acid.
The major uses of phosphine are as a fumigant during the storage of agricultural products such as nuts, seeds, grains, coffee and tobacco, and in the manufacture of semi-conductors. Phosphine is also used in the production of some chemicals and metal alloys and is an unintentional by-product in the illegal manufacture of the drug methamphetamine. Inhalation is the most likely route of exposure to phosphine, although ingestion of metal phosphides may also occur. Symptoms are non-specific and include irritation of the espiratory tract, headaches, dizziness, abdominal pain, sickness, and vomiting. convulsions, damage to the lungs, heart, liver and kidney, and death. Long-lasting effects of single dose exposure are unlikely, most symptoms clearing within a month.
Long-term exposure to phosphine, while unlikely to occur, can cause bronchitis, gastrointestinal, visual, speech and motor problems, toothache, swelling of the Jaw, anaemia and spontaneous fractures. Children exposed to phosphine will have the same symptoms of poisoning as adults. Phosphine is not likely to cause harm to the nborn child as acute effects are not known to cause developmental effects. Phosphine is rapidly broken down in the environment and it is very unlikely that the general population will be exposed to sufficient levels of phosphine to cause health effects. However, people may be exposed to very small amounts of phosphine present in air, food and water. Phosphine has not been associated with cancer and has not reviewed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Workers employed as fumigators, pestcontrol operators, transport workers and those involved in the production or use of hosphine and metal phosphides (welding, metallurgy, semi-conductors), may be General information: Page 2 of 5 PHOSPHINE - GENERAL INFORMATION Production and Uses Phosphine is present in emissions from some industrial processes such as the manufacture of some chemicals and metal alloys of metal phosphides) and as a catalyst and in the production of polymers The main uses of phosphine are as a chemical dopant in the manufacture of semiconductors for the electronics industry, and in the fumigation (in the form of metal phosphides) of stored agricultural products such as cereal grains and tobacco. Phosphine is also used as a condensation catalyst and in the manufacture of some polymers. Zinc phosphide is used as a rodenticide in the form of a pellet or as a paste mixed with food. Small amounts of phosphine are produced in the production of chemicals such as phosphonium halide and acetylene gas. General information: Page 3 of 5 Frequently Asked Questions What is phosphine? Phosphine is a colourless gas which is highly flammable and explosive in air.
Pure phosphine is odourless, although most commercially available grades have the odour of garlic or decaying fish. Small amounts of phosphine can occur naturally, formed uring the anaerobic degradation of organic matter. Phosphine is corrosive towards metals, in particular copper and copper-containing alloys. What is phosphine used for? A major use of phosphine is as a semi-conductor doping agent by the electronics industry. Metal (aluminium, magnesium and zinc) phosphides, which release phosphine on contact with moisture and acid, are used as rodenticides and fumigates during storage of agricultural commodities such as grain e. g. cereals, and tobacco. Phosphine is also used as a catalyst and in the production of polymers.
How does phosphine get into the environment? Small amounts of phosphine occur naturally during the decomposition of phosphorouscontaining organic matter e. g. in marsh gas. Emissions and effluents from the manufacture of some chemicals and metal alloys, as well the production or use of phosphine and metal phosphides (welding, metallurgy, semi-conductors, rodenticides and fumigants), release phosphine into the air. How will I be exposed to phosphine? It is unlikely that the general population will be exposed to significant amounts of phosphine, since it is degraded quickly in the environment; the half-life of phosphine in the air is about one day or less.
However, people may be exposed to very small amounts by inhaling air, drinking water and eating food containing phosphine. Workers involved with industries and processes where phosphine is used, e. g. fumigation and pest control, may be exposed to higher levels of phosphine. People living nearby sites where phosphine is being used may also be exposed to small amounts of phosphine in the air. Phosphine gas does not present a risk of secondary contamination, although solid phosphides may pose some risk. Absorption though the skin is not considered a significant route of exposure. If there is phosphine in the nvironment does not always lead to exposure. Clearly, in order for phosphine to cause any adverse health effects you must come into contact with it.
You may be exposed by breathing, eating, or drinking the substance or by skin contact. Following exposure to any chemical, the adverse health effects you may encounter depend on several factors, including the amount to which you are exposed (dose), the way you are exposed, the duration of exposure, the form of the chemical and if you are exposed to any other chemicals. Exposure to phosphine or metal phosphides can be irritating to the respiratory tract nd can cause weakness, chest pain and tightness, dry mouth, cough, sickness, vomiting, diarrhoea, chills, muscle pain, headache, dizziness, ataxia and confusion. Severe cases may lead to lung damage, convulsions, damage to the heart, liver and kidney, and death.
General information: Page 4 of 5 Long-term exposure to low levels of phosphine can cause anaemia, bronchitis, gastrointestinal problems, visual, speech and motor problems, toothache, swelling of the Jaw and spontaneous fractures. Can phosphine cause cancer? The Governmental Committee on Mutagenicity recently reviewed the available data n carcinogenicity of phosphine and concluded that it did not cause cancer in animal studies. Phosphine has not been reviewed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer ('ARC), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) considers phosphine as not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity, due to inadequate animal studies and a lack of human tumour data. Does phosphine affect children or damage the unborn child?
Children who ingest metal phosphides or inhale phosphine gas are expected to have similar symptoms as adults, e. g. sickness, vomiting, headache, dizziness, in severe ases leading to damage to the lungs, heart, liver and kidney and death. There is no evidence to suggest that maternal exposure to phosphine affects the health of the unborn child. What should I do if I am exposed to phosphine? It is very unlikely that the general population will be exposed to a level of phosphine high enough to cause adverse health effects. This document from the HPA Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards reflects understanding and evaluation of the current scientific evidence as presented and referenced in this document.