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A colorless, poisonous gas that smells like rotting fish. Phosphine has been used as a Fumigant but its use is now restricted. Fumigation with phosphine gas can cause damage to metals, metals salts, and sulfur containing materials such as leather, fur, hair, and feathers.

Synonyms and Related Terms

hydrogen phosphide; phosphoretted hydrogen; phosphorus trihydride; phosphorus hydride; phosphene (sp); Phostoxin; Celphos; Delicia Gastoxin; Detio-Gas-Ex-T; Ex-B;


  • Highly flammable.
  • Highly toxic by inhalation. Lethal doses at part per million levels.
  • At elevated temperatures and humidities, phosphine will corrode copper, copper alloys, and silver. Reactions are accelerated in the presence of ammonia or salty air.
  • NIOSH: Safety page

Physical and Chemical Properties

Soluble in ethanol, ether and cuprous chloride. Insoluble in water, oils and fats.

Composition PH3
CAS 7803-51-2
Melting Point -133.5 C
Molecular Weight mol. wt. = 34.0
Boiling Point -87.7 C

Resources and Citations

  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 7494
  • Lynda A. Zycherman, J.Richard Schrock, A Guide to Museum Pest Control, FAIC and Association of Systematics Collections, Washington DC, 1988
  • J. Dawson, CCI Technical Bulletin, 'Solving Museum Insect Problems: Chemical Control' , Canadian Conservation Institute, Ottawa, No. 15