A natural element, essential for human healthPhosphorus (P) is an essential element for all living organisms: man, animals and plants. In man,
phosphorus is necessary for human health : phosphorus compounds make up the structure of bones and
teeth and are fundamental to the transfer of energy within cells, and thus to all body functions, from thought
through to motion. Phosphorus is an essential element in DNA (genetic material) and in many proteins.
Phosphorus is naturally present in foods and is taken into the body as phosphates, the minimum intake
requirement for adults is approx. 0.8gP/day but the actual dietary uptake is generally closer to 2-3 gP/day.
Phosphates are also added both to animal feeds and to certain baby foods to improve their
In plants, phosphorus plays an essential role in photosynthesis and all energy recovering processes.
Phosphates are also one of the main nutrients in almost all agricultural and garden fertilisers, because they
are crucial for plant growth. It is because phosphates contribute to plant growth that, in certain particular
circumstances, their release into surface waters (lakes, rivers, coastal waters …) may result in the
Phosphates are generally a “good thing” for both animals and plants, and their use in detergents certainly
poses neither a health nor a toxicity risk : almost uniquely amongst chemicals, because of their natural role in
the body, there is safety confidence.
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