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March 29, 1976

Phosphorus Poisoning in Children

JAMA. 1976;235(13):1366. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260390052035

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Popularly known is the fact that children are likely to ingest almost anything that comes readily to hand. Unfortunately, some of the available materials are potentially poisonous and run the gamut from bottles of medications to rat poison. Of the latter, in this issue of The Journal (p 1343), Simon and Pickering tell the story of the noxious effects of acute yellow phosphorus or the "smoking stool syndrome."

Elemental phosphorus occurs in two forms, red and yellow (white). The former is nontoxic, while the latter is a deadly poison. In earlier times, yellow phosphorus was readily available in match tips, fireworks, and quack remedies; now the substance has been eliminated from these sources by legislation and international trade agreements. However, due to the increasing resistance of rodents to warfarin-containing substances, yellow phosphorus has come back on the market as a rodenticide paste recommended for use by spreading on crackers or