Acrylamide, first synthesized in 1949, is an odourless solid
that takes the form of either flake-like crystals or a 30-50
per cent aqueous solution.
The primary use of acrylamide, accounting for about 90 percent
of all industrial use, is as a chemical intermediate in the
production of a type of plastic called polyacrylamide, which
has a variety of uses.
For example, the treatment of drinking water in some municipalities
may include the removal of suspended particles by "flocculation"
with polyacrylamide, or to remove suspended solids from industrial
waste water before discharge, reuse, or disposal.
Because the polyacrylamide was once often contaminated with residual
acrylamide, both the U.S. and Canada now require a treatment
technique to limit levels of acrylamide in drinking water.
According to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Administration's Consumer Factsheet
on Acrylamide, the EPA requires American water suppliers
to show that when acrylamide is added to water, the amount
of uncoagulated acrylamide is less than 0.5 parts per billion
World Health Organization has set a guideline value associated
with an excess lifetime cancer risk of 105 is estimated
to be 0.5 µg/litre or ppb.
The European Union's Drinking Water Directive has specified a
limit value of 0.1 µg/litre or ppb. An eventual maximum contaminant
level goal of 0 µg/L has been promulgated by the EPA under
the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act.
Acrylamide is also used as a chemical intermediate in the
production of N-methylol acrylamide and N-butoxyacrylamide
and as a superabsorbent in disposable diapers, medical products,
and agricultural products.
Small amounts of acrylamide are also used in the synthesis
of dyes, ore processing, adhesives, paper and textile coatings,
permanent press fabrics, sugar beet juice clarification, binders
for seed coatings and foundry sand, and printing ink emulsion
Acrylamide has also been used in the construction of dam
foundations and tunnels.