January 06, 2020
I’m a useful monomer, but oh so dangerous.
What molecule am I?
Image of Acrylamide 3D Image of Acrylamide

Acrylamide is the simplest unsaturated organic amide. Despite its low molar mass, and because it is highly polar, it is a solid rather than a liquid. As the hazard information table indicates, it is extremely toxic in multiple ways.

In 1949, Otto Bayer at Bayer AG (Leverkusen, West Germany) described the preparation of acrylamide. (Bayer was not related to the founding Bayer family.) Chemist Bayer synthesized acrylamide via the acid-catalyzed hydrolysis of acrylonitrile. This is the only manufacturing method in use today. But in 2019, Kemira Ltd. (Helsinki, Finland) announced that it will begin to produce biobased acrylamide in its Mobile, AL, plant.

By far the major use of acrylamide is polymerization into polyacrylamides, which, depending on their molar masses and degree of cross-linking, are valuable for flocculating solids suspended in water, thickening water for use in enhanced petroleum recovery, and agricultural soil conditioning.

Acrylamide has become notorious in the past 20 years because traces of it have been found in commercial and home-cooked foods. Most of these are starchy foods such as French fries, potato chips, and some breads. In general, higher temperatures and longer cooking times increase the formation of acrylamide. Smoking tobacco, however, results in much higher blood acrylamide concentrations than any food source.

Acrylamide hazard information

GHS classification*: acute toxicity, oral, category 3
H301—Toxic if swallowedChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification: acute toxicity, dermal, category 4
H312—Harmful in contact with skinChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification: skin corrosion/irritation, category 2
H315—Causes skin irritationChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification: skin sensitization, category 1
H317—May cause an allergic skin reactionChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification: serious eye damage/eye irritation, category 2A
H319—Causes serious eye irritation Chemical Safety Warning
GHS classification:  acute toxicity, inhalation, category 4
H332—Harmful if inhaledChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification:  germ cell mutagenicity, category 1B
H340—May cause genetic defects Chemical Safety Warning
GHS classification:  carcinogenicity, category 1B
H350—May cause cancerChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification: reproductive toxicity, category 2
H361f—Suspected of damaging fertilityChemical Safety Warning
GHS classification: specific target organ toxicity, oral, repeated exposure, category 1
H372—Causes damage to organs (testes, peripheral nervous system) through prolonged or repeated exposure if swallowedChemical Safety Warning

**Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Explanation of pictograms.

Acrylamide fast facts

CAS Reg. No.79-06-1
Empirical formulaC3H5NO
Molar mass71.08 g/mol
AppearanceWhite crystals
Melting point84.5 ºC
Water solubility2.04 kg/L (25 ºC)
Chemical Abstract Service - a division of ACS

Learn more about this molecule from CAS, the most authoritative and comprehensive source for chemical information.

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