Environmental Transport

Environmental Deposition

Methods for Monitoring in the Environment

Methods for Monitoring Human Exposure

Safeguards Against Acrylamide Exposure

Harmful Effects

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Absorption, Distribution and Metabolism

Primary Sites for Toxicity


Mechanism of Action

Risk Assessment and Management


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Acrylamide Risk Assessment and Management


In order to properly assess the risk involved with acrylamide exposure, individuals that may be exposed to the chemical need to be divided into groups. There may be any number of groups based on varying detail. Several groups may occur within one acrylamide manufacturing facility or groups may be more broadly divided to encompass the entire population.

A distinguishing factor that is used when deciding on how to develop a group is to predict the exposure that each group may encounter. Each similar exposure group (SEG) may then be evaluated as a whole. In order to develop SEG’s some knowledge of exposure is needed. When determining exposure groups for workers in an acrylamide manufacturing plant it would be helpful to understand the airborne level of acrylamide aerosols. When determining the exposure groups for food product consumers it would be useful to know the amount of acrylamide in the foods.

Another essential tool for establishing risk assessment is to understand how much acrylamide is needed to cause damage. By understanding animal models and extrapolating health affects data determined through animal models, risk assessment may be determined in humans.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has composed a report addressing the risks involved with acrylamide exposure. Based on a research review conducted by the EPA, risk levels for acquiring cancer through ingestion (Figure 1) and inhalation (Figure 2) of acrylamide have been determined (19).

Historically it has been accepted that genotoxic carcinogenic substances, such as acrylamide, do not show a threshold for their effects . Generally substances that cause cancer rates in the 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 1,000 are considered unacceptable. (15) Because it is difficult to perform a study involving such a high number of subjects, risk is assumed to be linear and is used to extrapolate to lower dose levels (18).

The Norwegian Food Control Authority produced a similar risk assessment table as prepared by the EPA. The NFCA based the risk on a lifetime exposure with varying levels of average exposure (Figure 3) . Based on this data, the NFCA determined a lifetime cancer risk from exposure to 1ug acrylamide/kg bw/day, as 1.3x10-3 . The NFCA found that acrylamide is responsible for 1% of all food related cancer cases in Norway. (19)


The Norwegian Food Control Authority published a report addressing concern about acrylamide ingestion through coffee. The average intake from coffee was determined to be 13.9ug for males and 11.6ug for females. The previously estimated intake from food was 27ug for males and 20ug for females. Potato chips contributed 24% (5-6ug), soft bread 17-19% (3-5ug), other bread products 11-17% (2-5ug) and 9-11% (2-3ug) from french fries. The acrylamide intake from coffee is higher than any other foods that contribute to acrylamide intake (21).

For males and females a lifetime cancer risk of .2x10-3 (2 per 10,000) was estimated. For the 2.5%tile with high consumption rates of coffee .4X10-3 (4 per 10,000) for males and .5x10-3for females. The total risk for Norwegians is .7x10-3 (7 per 10,000). (21).

Another study conducted by the Norwegian Food Control Authority looked at the risk of cancer in children related to acrylamide exposure through baby food. The amount of acrylamide intake from baby food was determined to be .3ug/kg/day. This level was determined to be lower than intake from other foods and coffeee. (22)

Based on rat studies, there is no reason to suspect that younger children are more susceptible to acrylamide induced cancers as compared to adults. It was therefore determined that acrylamide in cereal-based baby foods are of little consequence when estimating cancer risk. This is due, in part, to the fact that the time of exposure is short, (1-2) years, as compared to a life time exposure. Because intake of baby food is of short duration it is not expected to have significant contribution as compared to a lifetime of ingestion of normal acrylamide containing foods. (22)


The first step in risk management is attempting to remove the risk. This is not always feasible based on many contributing factors. It is generally accepted to minimize the risk to an acceptable level. This may be done through various methods.

One method may be to remove or reduce the risk causing agent. The European Union is currently conducting extensive research on methods to reduce the levels of acrylamide in foods. Many of the projects are still ongoing. One experiment that has been completed has found that the addition of flavonoid spices reduced the amount of acrylamide in foods. (23)

Another method of risk management is through education. By educating consumers and workers that are exposed to acrylamide, people may be able to avoid contact with the chemical. California’s Proposition 65 is the safe drinking water and toxic enforcement act created in 1986 by the state government. The proposition requires the state to issue a list of chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. California proposes to identify certain foods that are likely to contain acrylamide. These foods would be tested for acrylamide on a routine basis. Those foods that contain acrylamide levels above the no significant risk level (NSRL) of 0.2 micrograms/day will be communicated to the public. The method for communicating with the public is under discussion but the use of warning labels has been discussed. (24)

California’s response to acrylamide has been debated by some people however. Dr. Henry Chin, Vice President of the National Food Processors Association, feels that California is not being consistent with the stand that other health organizations involved with the global issue of acrylamide exposure have established. Dr. Chin feels that because no health affects have been directly related to acrylamide in foods, California’s requirement of warning labels on foods containing high acrylamide levels is unwarranted. Dr. Chin is worried that certain foods will be targeted and people may begin altering their diets in an unsafe way in order to eliminate the chance of acrylamide exposure. (25)

The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also understands the need to educate consumers and processors of food to the risks involved with acrylamide exposure. While the CFSAN sees the benefits of making the public aware of the potential dangers of acrylamide exposure, the CFSAN is fearful as well.
The CFSAN is worried that people may change their diet and the way they cook food in order to reduce their risk to acrylamide exposure. The council wants to be sure that people continue to eat a balanced diet, while at the same time understanding which foods contain acrylamide and trying to limit the intake of these foods. (26)

The other concern of the CFSAN is that people may not adequately cook their foods in an attempt to eliminate the production of acrylamide through the cooking process. The committee wants to be certain that people recognize that undercooking food can be even more immediately dangerous to health due to the increased risk of food borne pathogens. Lowering the frying temperature may not only increase the risk of food borne pathogens but increase the fat content in certain foods as well. (26)

The CFSAN feels that it is extremely important that the true risk be understood before a risk management program can be implemented. Currently the CFSAN wants consumers to understand that they should eat a balanced diet, choosing a variety of foods that are low in fat, and rich in high-fiber grains, fruits and vegetables. The CFSAN will continue to update the consumer message as new information is made available. (26)