phosphorus poisoning

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phosphorus poisoning

a toxic condition caused by the ingestion of white or yellow phosphorus, sometimes found in rat poisons, certain fertilizers, and fireworks. Intoxication is characterized initially by nausea, throat and stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and an odor of garlic on the breath. After a few days of apparent recovery, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea recur with renal and hepatic dysfunction. Physical contact with the vomitus and feces of the patient is avoided.

phosphorus poisoning

Poisoning caused by the ingestion of substances containing yellow phosphorus, such as rat poison or roach poison. Yellow phosphorus is used in manufacturing fireworks and fertilizers.


Liver failure may follow acute irritation of the gastrointestinal tract. There may also be kidney damage. Other symptoms include profound weakness, hemorrhage, and heart failure. Occasionally nervous system symptoms predominate.

Patient care

Gastric lavage is performed if phosphorus was swallowed. The airway is protected by cuffed endotracheal intubation. Charcoal and a cathartic drug are administered. Depending on the length of time since ingestion, intravenous fluids may be used to flush the poison out of the system by diuresis. In some cases, peritoneal or hemodialysis may be needed. The patient requires close monitoring for delayed effects for at least 24 hr. If the poison was intentionally ingested, the patient is placed on suicide precautions and referred for further psychological counseling.

See also: poisoning


a chemical element, atomic number 15, atomic weight 30.974, symbol P. See Table 6. Phosphorus is an essential element in the diet. In the form of phosphates it is a major component of the mineral phase of bone and is involved in almost all metabolic processes. It also plays an important role in cell metabolism. It is obtained by the body from milk products, cereals, meat and fish, and its use by the body is controlled by vitamin D and calcium.

a radioisotope of phosphorus having a half-life of 14.3 days and emitting only beta rays; used in the form of sodium phosphate P-32 for treatment of polycythemia vera, chronic myelocytic leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and in localizing certain tumors during surgery. Symbol 32P.
calcium:phosphorus ratio
see calcium: phosphorus ratio.
inorganic phosphorus
any phosphorus-containing compound which does not also contain carbon.
phosphorus nutritional deficiency
causes rickets in the young and osteomalacia in adult ruminants. In less severe deficiency states there is pica, growth retardation, infertility and possibly retention of placenta. See also postparturient hemoglobinuria. An unlikely nutritional deficiency in carnivores.
phosphorus poisoning
is very rare because of the absence of elemental phosphorus from the environment. Causes severe gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhea. If the animal survives the gastroenteritis there is a subsequent acute hepatic insufficiency.
phosphorus restriction
indicated in the dietary management of chronic renal disease and secondary hyperaparathyroidism; in dogs and cats, usually accomplished by reducing the content of meat.
phosphorus supplements
supplementing the diets of animals exposed to phosphorus deficient feeds is usually achieved by feeding bone meal, or calcium or sodium phosphates. All are readily assimilable but none are palatable and special devices are often necessary to get animals to take required amounts. See also dietary phosphate.