Origin of phosphorus on beach rocks remains a mystery. Likely manmade.

In an update to a widely reported story about a woman several burned when rocks she collected on a California beach ignited her clothing, the origin of the burning material is still unknown.

Lab: Beach rocks that burned Calif. woman contained elevated phosphate levels; source unclear – The Washington Post.

Additional testing has confirmed beach rocks that spontaneously combusted in a Southern California woman’s pocket contained elevated levels of phosphorus, an official said Friday.

The source of the substance is still unclear, but an expert says it probably was manmade.

The phosphorus on the smooth, greenish-orange rocks is likely manmade, said Kenneth Shea, an organic chemistry professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Phosphorus is found in oxidized form in rocks, but in its pure elemental form can burn when exposed to air. Phosphorous compounds are used in everything from flares to munitions to fertilizer.

“You can’t go digging on the beach and find it,” Shea said. “It’s manmade, and it’s pretty common.”

Source: Google News

Here is a link to the original story we posted, speculating on the source of the chemical and it’s wide use in military applications and for creating smoke.

Officials had scoured the beach looking for more of these rocks and have found none. That is odd.

  1 comment for “Origin of phosphorus on beach rocks remains a mystery. Likely manmade.

  1. Fastmover01
    June 2, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    Could it maybe have been a busted open flare Marine or Land, or perhaps remanants that hadn’t burned?

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