According to popular belief, elemental phosphorous (P) was discovered in 1669 by the German chemist Henning Brand, while trying to convert silver into gold. The name phosphorous derives form the Greek words phos (light) andphoros (bearer). Phosphorous has the atomic number 15 and a mass of 30.97376 atomic mass units (a.m.u.) with a melting point of 44.1°C and a boiling point of 280°C. Phosphorous is commonly seen as a waxy white solid, although when pure it is colorless and transparent. Pure phosphorous is also insoluble in water.
Phosphorous is an essential element and a vital nutrient for all living organisms (human, animal, and plant life). For example, in man, phosphorous containing compounds are found in our genetic material (DNA) and in our proteins. Phosphorous is also essential for healthy teeth and bones, and is involved with transfer of energy within cells as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), thus being either directly or indirectly fundamental to all living processes. Humans and animals take in phosphorous in the form of phosphates, which is naturally present in a great many foodstuffs, including cheese, milk, meat, and cereals. Values for the minimum dietary intake for adult humans vary from country to country but generally lie between 500 to 800 mg/day, although the actual daily intake for most humans from food is estimated to be closer to 1200 to 2000 mg/day.
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