Acrylamide

Characteristics

Uses

Environmental Transport

Environmental Deposition

Methods for Monitoring in the Environment

Methods for Monitoring Human Exposure

Safeguards Against Acrylamide Exposure


Harmful Effects

Dose Response

Absorption, Distribution and Metabolism

Primary Sites for Toxicity

Biomarkers

Mechanism of Action

Risk Assessment and Management

References

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USES

Acrylamide is the building block for the polymer, polyacrylamide, which is considered a non-toxic additive. However, polyacrylamide may be contaminated with its toxic building block, acrylamide. To date there have been improvements in the polymerization process reducing the monomer content of these polymers from 5% to 0.3%. In addition, regulations have been set on the amount of acrylamide that is present in polyacrylamide. For example, a limit of 500ppm in polyacrylamide preparations (PAM) is used in agriculture or water treatment. Unfortunately, PAM hydrogels degrade releasing acrylamide and other toxic substances to the environment.

The polyacrylamides created have a wide range of high molecular weights which change its physical and chemical properties. As such polyacrylamides are created to suit many industrial applications.

 

Polyacrylamide is used in genetics, genetic engineering and molecular biology laboratories as a matrix for separating nucleic acid components during DNA sequence analysis and protein identification known as gel electrophoresis.

 

Polyacrylamide is used largely as a flocculator. Flocculators are substances that aid the separation of suspended solids from aqueous systems.

  • Water treatment facilities - as a floccuant in treatment of sewage, waste and drinking water. (This is the greatest use of acrylamide in water purification to flocculate suspended organic matter.)
  • Paper mills - sizing of paper, paper coating, paperboard, paper and board manufacture for packaging materials
  • Ore processing, oil recovery, crude oil production processes

 


It is used in irrigation water to improve soil texture. This covers a million or more acres in the United States and large farmland areas worldwide. Polyacrylamide is known as a soil-conditioning agent, for example it is used as a medium for hydroponic growth of vegetables (tomatoes).

Other:

  • pesticide formulations to limit spray drift (This is known as a trade secret and is rarely reported.)
  • cosmetic additives and contact lens
  • monomer and intermediate in production of organic chemicals, such as n-methylalacrylamide
  • polymer or copolymer synthesis of dyes
  • photographic emulsions
  • adhesive manufacture
  • food processing


Figure 1. Industrial usage of polyacrylamide in the United States in 1987. The total amount of acrylamide used was 110 million lbs.


HAZARDS

  • potent nerve toxin
  • effects male reproduction
  • causes birth defects
  • cancer in animals and potentially humans although no conclusive tests have been made in humans
  • cellular necrosis