A brief history of phosphorus: From the philosopher's stone to nutrient recovery and reuse

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Journal Article
Chemosphere, 2011, 84 (6), pp. 737 - 746
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The element phosphorus has no substitute in sustaining all life and food production on our planet. Yet today's phosphorus use patterns have resulted in both a global environmental epidemic of eutrophication and led to a situation where the future availability of the world's main sources of phosphorus is uncertain. This paper examines the important history of human interference with the phosphorus cycle from initial discovery to present, highlighting key interrelated events and consequences of the Industrial Revolution, Sanitation Revolution and Green Revolution. Whilst these events led to profound advances in technology, public health and food production, they have fundamentally broken the global phosphorus cycle. It is clear a 'Fourth Revolution' is required to resolve this dilemma and ensure humanity can continue to feed itself into the future while protecting environmental and human health. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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