Phosphate is a chemical compound that contains phosphorus and oxygen. It is necessary to the growth of plants and animals, and has extensive use as fertilizers. Phosphates are also used in the manufacture of detergents. In these products, phosphates help remove dirt and soften hard water. There are large amounts of natural phosphates. They occur in phosphate rocks, mostly combined with the elements calcium and magnesium. They also occur in the remains of animals(bone ash) and of plants (vegetable mold). Phosphate rock is the chief source of fertilizers containing phosphates. A soluble fertilizer known as superphosphate acts much more quickly than the pulverized rock. It is made by crushing the phosphate rock and treating it with sulfuric acid. Phosphorous is a chemical element that man, animals, and plants need for normal growth. Phosphorus is also used in the manufacture of many industrial products, such as plant fertilizers. Plants absorb phosphorus compounds from the soil, and human beings and animals eat the plants and other foods containing phosphorus. Foods that are rich in phosphorus include egg yolks, milk, fish, and peas. In the human body, phosphorus compounds are found chiefly in the bones, brain, and nerves. Phosphorus was discovered in 1609 by the German alchemist Hennig Brand. Bibliography: Adams, Melinda. Environmental Science. Redwood City, Ca.: The Benjamin/Cummings
, Inc., 1991.