CSIP: PRELIMS BOOSTER SERIES-161 Science and Technology


White Phosphorus

It is a highly toxic, wax-like substance known for its ability to burn at extremely high temperatures, exceeding 800 degrees Celsius (1,500 degrees Fahrenheit). It can melt metal and is often used by militaries to create smokescreens due to its fast-spreading fires and thick smoke production that can last for about seven minutes.

White phosphorus is harmful to humans and can cause severe burns, penetrating down to the bone. The chemicals can be absorbed by the body, leading to dysfunction in multiple organs, including the liver, kidneys, and heart.

White Phosphorous in war:
• While white phosphorus is not banned by international conventions, it isnot categorized as an “incendiary weapon” intended to cause fires or burns.
• Instead, it is considered a multipurpose munition. Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons prohibits incendiaries or the use of other substances to attack civilian populations, but it allows militaries to argue that white phosphorus is used only as a smokescreen, signal, or to illuminate a target.
• Israel has faced accusations of using white phosphorus in Gaza in the past, notably during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.

White phosphorus munitions can be delivered through artillery shells, bombs, rockets, or grenades. This substance is colourless, white, or yellow and emits a garlic-like odour.