ACRYLAMIDE FACT SHEET
Acrylamide is an organic solid of white, odorless, flake-like crystals. The greatest use of acrylamide is as a coagulant aid in drinking water treatment. Other uses of include: to improve production from oil wells; in making organic chemicals and dyes; in the sizing of paper and textiles; in ore processing; in the construction of dam foundations and tunnels.
Demand for acrylamide in the early 1990s was about 120 million pounds. The main source of concern for acrylamide in drinking water is from its use as a clarifier during water treatment. When added to water, it coagulates and traps suspended solids for easier removal. However, some acrylamide does not coagulate and remains in the water as a contaminant. Improvements in the production and use of acrylamide have made it possible to control this contamination to acceptable levels.
From 1987 to 1993, according to EPA’s Toxic Chemical Release Inventory, acrylamide releases to land and water totalled over 40,000 lbs. These releases were primarily from plastics industries. The largest releases occurred in Michigan.
What happens to Acrylamide when it is released to the environment? Acrylamide does not bind to soil and will move into soil rapidly, but it is degraded by microbes within a few days in soil and water. Its has little tendency to accumulate in fish.
Short-term: EPA has found acrylamide to potentially cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time: damage to the nervous system, weakness and incoordination in the legs.
Long-term: Acrylamide has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: damage to the nervous system, paralysis; cancer.