Phosphates are a broad class of chemicals that are either salts or esters of phosphoric acid. They are important in many fields, including biochemistry, human health and agriculture. Phosphates may be organic or inorganic.
Inorganic phosphates include all phosphates that are salts of phosphoric acid. These compounds are mined heavily in order to produce phosphorus, which is an essential part of the fertilizer used in industrial agriculture. Runoff from the industrial usage of phosphates is a major source of water pollution.
Organic phosphates include the esters of phosphoric acid, which have many important roles in natural biological processes. For instance, the hydrolysis of Adenosine-5'-triphosphate, commonly known as ATP, is an essential part of many vital metabolic processes in living organisms, including human beings.