CAS No. 7803-51-2

Phosphine (PH₃) is a colorless, flammable, and explosive gas at room temperature that smells like garlic or decaying fish.  Exposure to phosphine may cause, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, thirst, muscle pain, difficulty breathing, and fluid in the lungs. Higher exposures and long-term exposure may cause serious harm. Workers may be harmed from exposure to phosphine. The level of exposure depends upon the dose, duration, and work being done.

Phosphine is used in many industries. It’s used to kill insects and rodents in stored grain and tobacco. Some examples of workers at risk of being exposed to phosphine include the following:

  • Factory workers that make electronics
  • Workers in plants that make rat poison
  • Pest control workers who use it to control for rats

NIOSH recommends that employers use Hierarchy of Controls to prevent injuries. If you work in an industry that uses phosphine, please read chemical labels and the accompanying Safety Data Sheets for hazard information. Visit NIOSH’s page on Managing Chemical Safety in the Workplace to learn more about controlling chemical workplace exposures.

The following resources provide information about occupational exposure to phosphine. Useful search terms for phosphine include “hydrogen phosphide,” “phosphorated hydrogen,” “phosphorus hydride,” and “phosphorus trihydride.”

NIOSH Chemical Resources

Logo of NIOSH Pocket Guide

The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (NPG) helps workers, employers, and occupational health professionals recognize and control workplace chemical hazards.

Logo of Manual of Analytical Methods.Cdc-pdf[PDF - 85 KB]

The NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods (NMAM) is a collection of methods for sampling and analysis of contaminants in workplace air, and in the blood and urine of workers who are occupationally exposed.

Logo of Health Hazard Evaluations consisting of three letters: HHE

The Health Hazard Evaluation Program (HHE) conducts onsite investigations of possible worker exposure to chemicals. Search the HHE database for more information on phosphine.

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Page last reviewed: November 2, 2018