Phosphine – The gas with a toxic edge


Phosphine is a colourless, flammable, and toxic gas with an odour of garlic or decaying fish.

Phosphine is pyrophoric in high concentrations and may form explosive mixtures with air – it ignites spontaneously on contact with air.

The gas is shipped as a liquefied, compressed gas. Phosphine is rarely found in nature. Small amounts can be formed during the breakdown of organic matter, although it is rapidly degraded.

Phosphine is released into the air via emissions from various manufacturing processes and from the use of metal (magnesium, aluminium and zinc) phosphide fumigants and pesticides, which release phosphine on contact with water or acid.

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