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General Description

  • Synonyms: Hydrogen phosphide; Phosphorated hydrogen; Phosphorus hydride; Phosphorus trihydride
  • OSHA IMIS Code Number: 2080
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 7803-51-2
  • NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number: SY7525000
  • Department of Transportation Regulation Number (49 CFR 172.101) and Emergency Response Guidebook: 2199 119
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Phosphine: chemical description, physical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more

Exposure Limits

  • OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL):
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV) (1992): 0.3 ppm (0.42 mg/m3) TWA; 1 ppm (1.4 mg/m3) STEL
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL): 0.3 ppm (0.4 mg/m3) TWA; 1 ppm (1 mg/m3) STEL

Health Factors

  • NIOSH Immediately Dangerous To Life or Health Concentration (IDLH): 50 ppm
  • Potential Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea; thirst; chest pressure, dyspnea; muscle pain; chills; stupor or syncope; pulmonary edema (may be delayed); frostbite (from liquid); skin burns; numbness, paresthesia in fingers (from touching tablets); hypoglycemia, headache, dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness; jaundice; cough with fluorescent green sputum; tremors; convulsions; cardiac arrhythmias; CHRONIC EXPOS.: Toothache, phossy jaw, spontaneous fractures of bones; anemia.
  • Health Effects: Acute and chronic systemic toxicity (CNS effects, focal myocardial necrosis; congestive heart failure, liver and kidney damage, lung edema, anemia) (HE4), (HE7), and (HE11); Explosive, Flammable (HE18)
  • Affected Organs: Respiratory system, CNS, heart, liver, kidneys
  • Notes:
    1. Gas/air mixtures are explosive. May ignite spontaneously in technical grade if sufficiently contaminated with P2H4
    2. Odor warning when the exposure limit value is exceeded is insufficient.
    3. Phosphine gas is generated when the pesticides, aluminum phosphide and magnesium phosphide come in contact with moisture.
    4. Although occupational exposure often involves workers who apply the fumigant, enter closed areas/containers of stored agricultural products (e.g., grain, dried beans) treated with aluminum phosphide, or are involved in phosphine fires and explosions (including firefighters), one reported case involved a law enforcement officer investigating an illicit methamphetamine manufacturing site.
    5. One study reported an association between the agricultural use of phosphine and elevated incidence of neurologic birth defects and neurobehavioral developmental effects in northwestern Minnesota.
  • Literature Basis:
    • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards: Phosphine.
    • NIOSH Alert: Preventing Phosphine Poisoning and Explosions during Fumigation. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 99-126 (September 1999).
    • International Chemical Safety Cards (WHO/IPCS/ILO): Phosphine.
    • EPA Air Toxics Website: Phosphine. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Technology Transfer Network.
    • Brautbar, N. and Howard, J.: Phosphine toxicity: report of two cases and review of the literature. Toxicol. Ind. Health 18(2): 71-75, 2002.
    • Burgess, J.L.: Phosphine exposure from a methamphetamine laboratory investigation. J. Toxicol. Clin. Toxicol. 39(2): 165-168, 2001.
    • Garry, V.F., Harkins, M.E., Erickson, L.L., Long-Simpson, L.K., Holland, S.E. and Burroughs, B.L.: Birth defects, season of conception, and sex of children born to pesticide applicators living in the Red River Valley of Minnesota, USA. Environ. Health Perspec. 110(Suppl. 3): 441-449, 2002.
    • Pohanish, R.P. (editor): Phosphine. In, Sittig's Handbook of Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals and Carcinogens, Fourth Ed., Vol. 2. Norwich, NY: Noyes Publications, William Andrew Publishing, 2002, pp. 1862-1864.
  • Date Last Revised: 07/19/2004

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method:
  • Polyester Filter treated with Mercuric-Chloride
  • maximum volume: 240 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 1.0 L/min (TWA)
  • maximum volume: 30 Liters
  • maximum flow rate: 2.0 L/min (STEL)
  • current analytical method: Inductively Coupled Plasma; ICP/AES
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA 1003)
  • method classification: Fully Validated
  • note: Place a glass fiber filter in front of the treated polyester filter to collect solid particles.

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