White phosphorus, a highly flammable chemical compound, has been the subject of controversy due to its use as a weapon in armed conflicts. Also known as elemental white phosphorus, it is a substance that ignites easily upon contact with air, burning intensely and generating extreme heat. This material has historically been used in the manufacture of incendiary and smoke ammunition.
One of the most controversial aspects of white phosphorus is its humanitarian impact. In the past, it has been used in conflicts to create areas of denial, spreading thick smoke and creating uncontrollable fires. Additionally, white phosphorus can adhere to the skin and penetrate tissues, causing severe chemical burns. These burns are difficult to treat and can be fatal if they affect vital organs.
The use of white phosphorus as a weapon is prohibited in densely populated areas under Protocol III to the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which prohibits its use in civilian areas. However, reports of its use in recent conflicts have led to international debates and criticism against the perpetrators.
In addition to its use in conflict, white phosphorus also has legitimate applications in industry, such as in the production of fertilizers, pesticides, and industrial chemicals. However, its use in war situations continues to be a cause of international concern and condemnation.
The international community continues to debate how to address the use of weapons such as white phosphorus in conflicts, seeking to ensure respect for international humanitarian laws and protect civilian populations from the devastating effects of these substances on battlefields.