Phosphorus (yellow)

May 1994
Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLH)

CAS number: 7723–14–0

NIOSH REL: 0.1 mg/m3 TWA

Current OSHA PEL: 0.1 mg/m3 TWA

1989 OSHA PEL: Same as current PEL

1993-1994 ACGIH TLV: 0.02 ppm (0.1 mg/m3) TWA

Description of substance: White to yellow, soft, waxy solid with acrid fumes in air.

LEL :. . Unknown

Original (SCP) IDLH*: No Evidence [*Note: “Effective” IDLH = 200 mg/m3 — see discussion below.]

Basis for original (SCP) IDLH: There is no evidence of an IDLH because, as ACGIH [1971] stated, acute effects rarely result from inhalation of phosphorus vapor. ACGIH [1971] also reported that rabbits survived daily 30-minute exposures to 150 to 160 mg/m3 [Maruo 1955]. For this draft technical standard, therefore, respirators have been selected on the basis of the assigned protection factor afforded by each device up to 2,000 ´ the OSHA PEL of 0.1 mg/m3 (i.e., 200 mg/m3); only the “most protective” respirators are permitted for use in concentrations exceeding 200 mg/m3.

Short-term exposure guidelines: None developed


Lethal dose data:

Species Reference Route LD50 (mg/kg) LDLo (mg/kg) Adjusted LD Derived value




Cheng-Chun et al. 1975

Cheng-Chun et al. 1975

Yakkyoku 1977

Yakkyoku 1977













21 mg/m3

34 mg/m3

70 mg/m3

28 mg/m3

2.1 mg/m3

3.4 mg/m3

7.0 mg/m3

4.0 mg/m3

Other animal data: It has been reported that rabbits have survived daily 30-minute exposures to 150 to 160 mg/m3 [Maruo 1955].

Human data: Death has reportedly resulted from a single dose of 1 mg/kg [Smyth 1956]. Severe toxic symptoms have been reported following a single oral dose of 15 mg [Sollmann 1943]. However, survival of ingestion up to 1.5 grams have also been reported [Diza-Rivera et al. 1950; Newburger et al. 1948]. [Note: An oral dose of 15 mg is equivalent to a 70-kg worker being exposed to 10 mg/m3 for 30 minutes, assuming a breathing rate of 50 liters per minute and 100% absorption.]

Revised IDLH: 5 mg/m3

Basis for revised IDLH: The revised IDLH for phosphorus (yellow) is 5 mg/m3 based on acute oral toxicity data in humans [Sollmann 1943] and animals [Cheng-Chun et al. 1975; Yakkyoku 1977].


1. ACGIH [1971]. Phosphorus (yellow). In: Documentation of the threshold limit values for substances in workroom air. 3rd ed. Cincinnati, OH: American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, p. 210.

2. Cheng-Chun L, Dilley JV, Hodgson JR, Helton DO, Wiagand WJ, Roberts DN, Anderson BS, Halfpap LM, Kurtz LD [1975]. Mammalian toxicity of munition compounds: phase I. Acute oral toxicity, primary skin and eye irritation, dermal sensitization and disposition and metabolism. Washington, DC: Headquarters, U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, Contract DMD-17-74-C-4073.

3. Diaz-Rivera RS, Collazo PJ, Pons ER, Torregrosa MV [1950]. Acute phosphorus poisoning in man. A study of 56 cases. Medicine 29:269-298.

4. Maruo T [1955]. Experimental study on poisoning due to gas of yellow phosphor. Part I. The hemogram of rabbits. Fukuoka Acta Medica 46:604-615 (in Japanese).

5. Newburger RA, Beaser SB, Schwachman H [1948]. Phosphorus poisoning with recovery accompanied by electrocardiographic changes. Am J Med 4:927-930.

6. Smyth HF Jr [1956]. Improved communication: hygienic standards for daily inhalation. Am Ind Hyg Assoc Q 17(2):129-185.

7. Sollmann T [1943]. A manual of pharmacology and its applications to therapeutics and toxicology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders, pp. 884-889.

8. Yakkyoku (Pharmacy) [1977]; 28:329 (in Japanese).

Page last reviewed: December 4, 2014