The Dangers of Matches

We’ve already gone into detail about the dangers of lighting up with butane lighters, but what about matches? Far from being a safe alternative, matches can be even more dangerous butane lighters! The amount of phosphorous, especially during the ignition process, can cause an athma-like reaction, constricting the throat and even leading to death in serious cases.

There are two types of matches: strike-anywhere and safety matches. Strike-anywhere matches will ignite when struck against any textured surface, while safety matches will only ignite when struck against a prepared surface (usually on the matchbook or box).

The first matches were made with sulfur, and than later on with a very toxic substance known as “white phosphorous.” These early matches were likely to combust at any time, so makers added fire-retardent chemicals like alum and soidium silicate to make them more stable. Later chemists even added lead to make the matches strike “more quietly.” The result was a dependable, but very dangerous, fire-starting tool. In fact, these matches were so toxic, that one matchbook contained enough white phosphorous to kill a grown man. After many instances of accidents and suicides (from swallowing the match-heads) and complications like bone disorders, the white phosphorous matches were eventually banned worldwide and replaced with the somewhat-safer “red phosphorous” matches.

Modern safety matches found in match-books worldwide contain the following:

Match-book striking surface:

  • 25% powdered glass
  • 50% red phosphorous
  • 5% neutralizer
  • 4 % carbon black


  • 45 – 55% potassium chlorate
  • 20 – 40% siliceous filler
  • trace amounts of diatomite, glue and sulfur

Ask yourself: would you want to inhale this stuff??