"This toxicological profile is prepared in accordance with guidelines developed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The original guidelines were published in the Federal Register on April 17, 1987. Each profile will be revised and republished as necessary. White phosphorus is used mainly for producing phosphoric acid and other chemicals. These chemicals are used to make fertilizers, additives in foods and drinks, cleaning compounds, and other products. Small amounts of white phosphorus have been used as rat and roach poisons and in fireworks. In the past, white phosphorus was used to make matches, but another chemical with fewer harmful health effects has since replaced it. In the military, white phosphorus is used in ammunitions such as mortar and artillery shells, and grenades. When ammunitions containing white phosphorus are fired in the field, they burn and produce smoke. The smoke contains some unburnt phosphorus, but it mainly has various burned phosphorus products. In military operations, such smoke is used to conceal troop movements and to identify targets or the locations of friendly forces. White phosphorus munitions are intended to burn or firebomb the opponents, in other words, to effectively produce widespread damage but not kill the enemy."
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Toxicological Profile Information Sheet: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/