An evaluation of childhood deaths in Turkey due to yellow phosphorus in firecrackers

J Forensic Sci. 2015 May;60(3):648-52. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.12702. Epub 2015 Feb 6.


Yellow phosphorus (YP) is a powerful protoplasmic poison used in the manufacturing of matches, pest poisons, firecrackers, firework cracker, lights for watches, military ammunition, and agriculture fertilizer. YP is extremely flammable and toxic and easily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. In this study, we examined childhood deaths from 1997 to 2012 resulting from the ingestion of firecrackers. The patients ranged from 2 to 15 years of age and were admitted to the hospital with a variety of symptoms. Those that presented with nausea, vomiting, and hypotension rapidly deteriorated and entered a coma. An autopsy was performed in all but one of the 16 cases reviewed. Macroscopically, the livers had a yellowish discoloration with petechial bleeding. Histopathologic examination revealed acute toxic hepatitis. In conclusion, these firecrackers are found in corner shops throughout Turkey, may cause death in children with little warning, and should be banned to prevent further deaths.

Keywords: autopsy; childhood deaths; firecracker; forensic science; intoxication; toxic hepatitis; yellow phosphorus.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Explosive Agents / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Phosphorus / poisoning*
  • Turkey


  • Explosive Agents
  • Phosphorus