From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
GRAPHIC VIDEO – Lebanese Doctor Says ‘Phosphorus Weapons’ Cause Suffering
[A note to readers: This news report, originally aired on CNN International, contains graphic images.]
CNN video correspondent, Karl Penhaul, follows a family that had been
mistakenly caught in an Israeli air strike. The doctor treating the
family says that there is phosphorus in the weapons that cause
extremely painful burns on its victims.
NOT AGAINST THE LAW
Lebanon president says Israel uses phosphorous arms
PARIS, July 24 (Reuters) – Lebanon’s president accused Israel on Monday
of using phosphorous bombs in its 13-day offensive and urged the United
Nations to demand an immediate ceasefire.
“According to the Geneva Convention, when they use phosphorous bombs
and laser bombs, is that allowed against civilians and children?”
President Emile Lahoud asked on France’s RFI radio.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said arms used in Lebanon did not
contravene international norms.
“Everything the Israeli Defence Forces are using is legitimate,” the
Lahoud gave no details but said the United Nations had to take concrete
action to force Israel to stop its assault.
“The massacre must be stopped as soon as possible. Afterwards we can
talk about everything,” he said. “A decision has to be taken so that
there is an immediate ceasefire.”
Lahoud’s comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew
to Beirut to seek a “sustainable” ceasefire in Lebanon.
The conflict, triggered when Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli
soldiers, has killed at least 373 in Lebanon as well as 37 Israelis and
displaced half a million people in Lebanon.
White Phosphorus (WP)
White Phosphorus (WP), known as Willy Pete, is used for signaling,
screening, and incendiary purposes. White Phosphorus can be used to
destroy the enemy’s equipment or to limit his vision. It is used
against vehicles, petroleum, oils and lubricants (POL) and ammunition
storage areas, and enemy observers. WP can be used as an aid in target
location and navigation. It is usually dispersed by explosive
munitions. It can be fired with fuze time to obtain an airburst. White
phosphorus was used most often during World War II in military
formulations for smoke screens, marker shells, incendiaries, hand
grenades, smoke markers, colored flares, and tracer bullets.
The Battle of Fallujah was conducted from 8 to 20 November 2004 with
the last fire mission on 17 November. The battle was fought by an Army,
Marine and Iraqi force of about 15,000 under the I Marine Expeditionary
Force (IMEF). US forces found WP to be useful in the Battle of
Fallujah. “WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used
it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a
potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and
spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired
“shake and bake” missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them
out and HE to take them out. … We used improved WP for screening
missions when HC smoke would have been more effective and saved our WP
for lethal missions.”
White phosphorus is not banned by any treaty to which the United States
is a signatory. Smokes and obscurants comprise a category of materials
that are not used militarily as direct chemical agents. The United
States retains its ability to employ incendiaries to hold high-priority
military targets at risk in a manner consistent with the principle of
proportionality that governs the use of all weapons under existing law.
The use of white phosphorus or fuel air explosives are not prohibited
or restricted by Protocol II of the Certain Conventional Weapons
Convention (CCWC), the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on
the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be
Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects.
White Phosphorus (WP) – Incendiary
WP is a colorless to yellow translucent wax-like substance with a
pungent, garlic-like smell. The form used by the military is highly
energetic (active) and ignites once it is exposed to oxygen. White
phosphorus is a pyrophoric material, that is, it is spontaneously
When exposed to air, it spontaneously ignites and is oxidized rapidly
to phosphorus pentoxide. Such heat is produced by this reaction that
the element bursts into a yellow flame and produces a dense white
smoke. Phosphorus also becomes luminous in the dark, and this property
is conveyed to “tracer bullets.” This chemical reaction continues until
either all the material is consumed or the element is deprived of
oxygen. Up to 15 percent of the WP remains within the charred wedge and
can reignite if the felt is crushed and the unburned WP is exposed to
White phosphorus results in painful chemical burn injuries. The
resultant burn typically appears as a necrotic area with a yellowish
color and characteristic garliclike odor. White phosphorus is highly
lipid soluble and as such, is believed to have rapid dermal penetration
once particles are embedded under the skin. Because of its enhanced
lipid solubility, many have believed that these injuries result in
delayed wound healing. This has not been well studied; therefore, all
that can be stated is that white phosphorus burns represent a small
subsegment of chemical burns, all of which typically result in delayed
Incandescent particles of WP may produce extensive burns. Phosphorus
burns on the skin are deep and painful; a firm eschar is produced and
is surrounded by vesiculation. The burns usually are multiple, deep,
and variable in size. The solid in the eye produces severe injury. The
particles continue to burn unless deprived of atmospheric oxygen.
Contact with these particles can cause local burns. These weapons are
particularly nasty because white phosphorus continues to burn until it
disappears. If service members are hit by pieces of white phosphorus,
it could burn right down to the bone. Burns usually are limited to
areas of exposed skin (upper extremities, face). Burns frequently are
second and third degree because of the rapid ignition and highly
lipophilic properties of white phosphorus.
If burning particles of WP strike and stick to the clothing, take off
the contaminated clothing quickly before the WP burns through to the
skin. Remove quickly all clothing affected by phosphorus to prevent
phosphorus burning through to skin. If this is impossible, plunge skin
or clothing affected by phosphorus in cold water or moisten strongly to
extinguish or prevent fire. Then immediately remove affected clothing
and rinse affected skin areas with cold sodium bicarbonate solution or
with cold water. Moisten skin and remove visible phosphorus (preferably
under water) with squared object (knife-back etc.) or tweezers. Do not
touch phosphorus with fingers! Throw removed phosphorus or clothing
affected by phosphorus into water or allow to bum in suitable location.
Cover phosphorus burns with moist dressing and keep moist to prevent
renewed inflammation. It is neccessary to dress white
phosphorus-injured patients with saline-soaked dressings to prevent
reignition of the phosphorus by contact with the air.
Some nations recommend washing the skin with a 0.5-2.0% copper sulphate
solution or a copper sulphate impregnated pad. Wounds may be rinsed
with a 0.1%-0.2% copper sulphate solution, if available. Dark coloured
deposits may be removed with forceps. Prevent prolonged contact of any
copper sulphate preparations with the tissues by prompt, copious
flushing with water or saline, as there is a definite danger of copper
poisoning. It may be necessary to repeat the first aid measures to
completely remove all phosphorus.
White Phosphorus (WP) – Smoke
White Phosphorus (WP) creates a smoke screen as it burns. Phosphorus
smokes are generated by a variety of munitions. Some of these munitions
such as the M825 (155-mm round) may, on explosion, distribute particles
of incompletely oxidized white phosphorus.
Smokes obscure vision and are used to hide troops, equipment, and areas
from detection. Smoke screens are essential for movement in city
fighting. In the December 1994 battle for Grozny in Chechnya, every
fourth or fifth Russian artillery or mortar round fired was a smoke or
white phosphorus round.
White Phosphorus and Red Phosphorus burn to produce a hygroscopic smoke
containing phosphoric acids. Red phosphorus (RP) is not nearly as
reactive as white phosphorus. It reacts slowly with atmospheric
moisture and the smoke does not produce thermal injury, hence the smoke
is less toxic. The extinction for these smokes is primarily due to
scattering in the visible and absorption in the infrared (IR). These
smokes are composed of spherical liquid particles that grow with
relative humidity to an equilibrium size by absorbing ambient moisture
that depends on the ambient relative humidity. The mass extinction
varies significantly with relative humidity.
The White Phosphorus flame produces a hot, dense white smoke composed
of particles of phosphorus pentoxide, which are converted by moist air
into phosphoric acid. This acid, depending on concentration and
duration of exposure, may produce a variety of topically irritative
Most smokes are not hazardous in concentrations which are useful for
obscuring purposes. However, any smoke can be hazardous to health if
the concentration is sufficient or if the exposure is long enough.
Medical personnel should be prepared to treat potential reactions to
military smokes once such smokes have been introduced to the
battlefield. Exposure to heavy smoke concentrations for extended
periods (particularly if near the source of emission) may cause illness
or even death.
Casualties from WP smoke have not occurred in combat operations. At
room temperature, white phosphorus is somewhat volatile and may produce
a toxic inhalational injury. In moist air, the phosphorus pentoxide
produces phosphoric acid. This acid, depending on concentration and
duration of exposure, may produce a variety of topically irritative
injuries. Irritation of the eyes and irritation of the mucous membranes
are the most commonly seen injuries. These complaints remit
spontaneously with the soldier’s removal from the exposure site. With
intense exposures, a very explosive cough may occur, which renders gas
mask adjustment difficult. There are no reported deaths resulting from
exposure to phosphorus smokes. Generally, treatment of WP smoke
irritation is unnecessary. Spontaneous recovery is rapid.
White phosphorus fume can cause severe eye irritation with
blepharospasm, photophobia, and lacrimation. Irritation of the eyes and
irritation of the mucous membranes are the most commonly seen injuries.
These complaints remit spontaneously with the soldier’s removal from
the exposure site. The WP smoke irritates the eyes and nose in moderate
concentrations. With intense exposures, a very explosive cough may
occur, which renders gas mask adjustment difficult. There are no
reported deaths resulting from exposure to phosphorus smokes.
White Phosphorus – Non-Military Applications
The amazing thing is that White Phosphorus is used in almost every
product imaginable – from soft drinks to toothpaste. White phosphorus
is used by industry to produce phosphoric acid and other chemicals for
use in fertilizers, food additives, and cleaning compounds. Small
amounts of white phosphorus were used in the past in pesticides and
In recent years, concentrated phosphoric acids, which may contain as
much as 70% to 75% P2O5 content, have become of great importance to
agriculture and farm production. World-wide demand for fertilizers has
caused record phosphate production. Phosphates are used in the
production of special glasses, such as those used for sodium lamps.
Bone-ash, calcium phosphate, is used to create fine chinaware and to
produce mono-calcium phosphate, used in baking powder. Phosphorus is
also important in the production of steels, phosphor bronze, and many
other products. Trisodium phosphate is important as a cleaning agent,
as a water softener, and for preventing boiler scale and corrosion of
pipes and boiler tubes.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and numerous state/local law
enforcement authorities throughout the United States, have noted an
alarming trend involving illicit methamphetamine production.
Methamphetamine (AKA speed, crank or meth) is a major drug problem in
the United States. All businesses engaged in the sale of red
phosphorus, white phosphorus and hypophosphorous acid products should
be aware of the use of these products by clandestine methamphetamine
White Phosphorus – Background
Phosphorus is an element, the name derived from the Greek “phosphoros”
or light bearing, the ancient name for the planet Venus when appearing
before sunrise. Brand discovered phosphorus in 1669 by preparing it
from urine. Phosphorus exists in four or more allotropic forms: white
(or yellow), red, and black (or violet). Ordinary phosphorus is a waxy
white solid; when pure it is colorless and transparent. White
phosphorus has two modifications: alpha and beta with a transition
temperature at -3.8oC. It is insoluble in water, but soluble in carbon
Never found free in nature, Phosphorus is widely distributed in
combination with minerals. Phosphate rock, which contains the mineral
apatite, an impure tri-calcium phosphate, is an important source of the
element. Large deposits are found in Russia, in Morocco, and in
Florida, Tennessee, Utah, Idaho, and elsewhere.
White phosphorus may be made by several methods. By one process,
tri-calcium phosphate, the essential ingredient of phosphate rock, is
heated in the presence of carbon and silica in an electric furnace or
fuelfired furnace. Elementary phosphorus is liberated as vapor and may
be collected under phosphoric acid, an important compound in making
White Phosphorus (WP) – Other Health Effects
Systemic toxicity may occur if therapy is not administered. Therapy
consists of topical use of a bicarbonate solution to neutralize
phosphoric acids and mechanical removal and debridement of particles. A
Wood’s lamp in a darkened room may help to identify remaining
luminescent particles. The early signs of systemic intoxication by
phosphorus are abdominal pain, jaundice, and a garlic odor of the
breath; prolonged intake may cause anemia, as well as cachexia and
necrosis of bone, involving typically the maxilla and mandible (phossy
jaw). Prolonged absorption of phosphorus causes necrosis of bones. It
is a hepatotoxin.
The presenting complaints of overexposed workers may be toothache and
excessive salivation. There may be a dull red appearance of the oral
mucosa. One or more teeth may loosen, with subsequent pain and swelling
of the jaw; healing may be delayed following dental procedures such as
extractions; with necrosis of bone, a sequestrum may develop with sinus
tract formation. In a series of 10 cases, the shortest period of
exposure to phosphorus fume (concentrations not measured) that led to
bone necrosis was 10 months (two cases), and the longest period of
exposure was 18 years.
Signs and symptoms include irritation of the eyes and the respiratory
tract; abdominal pain, nausea, and jaundice; anemia, cachexia, pain,
and loosening of teeth, excessive salivation, and pain and swelling of
the jaw; skin and eye burns. Phossy jaw must be differentiated from
other forms of osteomyelitis. With phossy jaw, a sequestrum forms in
the bone and is released from weeks to months later; the sequestra are
light in weight, yellow to brown, osteoporotic, and decalcified,
whereas sequestra from acute staphylococcal osteomyelitis are sharp,
white spicules of bone, dense and well calcified. In acute
staphylococcal osteomyelitis, the radiographic picture changes rapidly
and closely follows the clinical course, but with phossy jaw the
diagnosis sometimes is clinically obvious before radiological changes
are discernible. It is good dental practice to take routine X-ray films
of jaws, but experience indicates that necrosis can occur in the
absence of any pathology that is visible on the roentgenogram.