Altlasten des Krieges – Verbrennungen durch weißen Phosphor

Translated title of the contribution: Contaminated sites from the war—burns due to white phosphorus

J. Preuß-Wössner*, M. Wernicke, I. Gerling, N. Zimak, S. Klückmann

*Corresponding author for this work


White phosphorus is a highly reactive substance, which can spontaneously ignite at room temperature. Historically it was used in matches and due to its high toxicity even in low doses also as rat poison. While oral poisoning with phosphorus is nowadays no longer an issue, accidents caused by phosphorus leaking out of old war ammunition occur from time to time on the coastal areas of the North and Baltic Seas. White phosphorus can be easily mistaken as amber. Once in touch with the human skin, phosphorus leads to serious burn injuries due to its chemical properties. In the case presented a child showed typical injuries up to third degree skin burns. The explosive ordnance disposal team could find parts of ammunition which could contain phosphorus in the inland water concerned. Another munition discovery at the same site led to the conclusion that allied ammunition had also been disposed of in the waters and showed the presence of old war ammunition not only in the North and Baltic Seas but also in inland waters. The fast and straightforward cooperation of several departments could relatively quickly clarify the sequence of the accident.

Translated title of the contributionContaminated sites from the war—burns due to white phosphorus
Original languageGerman
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)31-37
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2020


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