White phosphorus is an extremely reactive element. White phosphorus ignites spontaneously in chlorine and reacts violently with the halogens. white phosphorus reacts very quickly with oxygen in the air, it may not be found far away from sources of contamination. The fate of white phosphorus smoke is similar to the fate of reaction products of white phosphorus.
White phosphorus reacts with caustic soda to give phosphine and sodium hypo phosphate.
P4 + 3H2O + 3NaOH → 3NaH2PO2 + PH3
White phosphorus reacts mainly with oxygen in the water and may stay in water for a period of hours to days.