This substance, a small portion of which is always naturally present in our brains and in our bones, is, when in the separate state, a most destructive poison. It acts rapidly; when, for example, ends of lucifer matches are swallowed, through mistake or malice. It is known also to act slowly, in producing disease of the jawbones, with those engaged in making lucifer matches. Symptoms of acute or rapid phosphorus poisoning usually begin to appear a few hours after it is taken. There is a garlickly taste, with burning in the throat, pain in the stomach, violent vomiting, sometimes purging; coldness, prostration, and either convulsions or stupor before death, which may follow in from one to five or six days. The amount necessary to kill an adult is less than a grain. A child two years old is reported to have died in consequence of swallowing the ends of eight friction-matches; and two of these have killed an infant two months old.

Treatment of phosphorus poisoning must be conducted without any known antidote, unless old spirit of turpentine, in teaspoonful doses, be such, as some have asserted. First give an emetic with plenty of warm water; then charcoal and magnesia-water, abundantly. No oil (unless oil of turpentine, as above said) is to be given after phosphorus poisoning-, oil dissolves and diffuses it more rapidly. Rice-water, milk, or flaxseed-tea will be suitable to allay irritation, in a case which escapes death.