Acrylic Acid

Acrylic acid (IUPAC: prop-2-enoic acid) is an organic compound with the formula CH2=CHCO2H. It is the simplest unsaturated carboxylic acid, consisting of a vinyl group connected directly to a carboxylic acid terminus. This colourless liquid has a characteristic acrid or tart smell. [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][1] It is miscible with water, alcohol, ether, benzene, chloroform, and acetone. It polymerises readily in the presence of oxygen. Exothermic polymerisation at room temperature may cause acrylic acid to become explosive if confined. It is sensitive to heat and sunlight. It is also a fire hazard when exposed to heat or flame. Acrylic acid is incompatible with strong oxidisers, strong bases, strong alkalies and pure nitrogen. It may polymerise (sometimes explosively) on contact with amines, ammonia, oleum and chlorosulfonic acid, iron salts and peroxides. It may corrode iron and steel. [2]

Uses [2]

The primary use of acrylic acid is in the production of acrylic esters and resins, which are used primarily in coatings and adhesives. It is also used in oil treatment chemicals, detergent intermediates, water treatment chemicals, and water absorbent polyacrylic acid polymers. Acrylic acid is used widely for polymerisation, including production of polyacrylates. It is a monomer for polyacrylic and polymethacrylic acids and other acrylic polymers. It is used in the manufacture of plastics, as a tackifier, as a flocculant, in the production of water-soluble resins and salts, as a comonomer in acrylic emulsion and solution polymers and in moulding powder for signs, construction units, decorative emblems and insignias. It is used in polymer solutions for coatings applications, in paint formulations, in leather finishings, in paper coatings, in polishes and adhesives and in general finishes and binders.

Sources of Emission & Routes of Exposure 

Sources of Emission [2]

  • Industry sources: Acrylic acid may be released in wastewater and as emissions during its production and use. Acrylic acid is emitted from the production of acrylic acid and acrylate. The primary stationary sources listed in the US are manufacturers of guided missiles and space vehicles, and electronic components and accessories.
  • Diffuse sources: Acrylic acid emissions can occur from polishes, paints, coatings, rug backings, adhesives, plastics, textiles, and paper finishes. Acrylic acid has been used as a pesticide.
  • Natural sources: Acrylic acid is also produced naturally by some species of algae and has been found in the rumen fluid of sheep.
  • Transport sources: None.
  • Consumer products: Products containing acrylic acid include polishes, paints, coatings, rug backings, adhesives, plastics, textiles, and paper.

Routes of Exposure [3]

Exposure can occur through inhalation, ingestion, and contact to the eyes and skin. Studies show that eye or skin irritation from exposure to acrylic acid can range in intensity from mild to severe. People can be exposed to acrylic acid through direct contact with a product containing it or by inhaling it in air contaminated by a nearby plant manufacturing acrylic acid. Exposure to acrylic acid occurs primarily in the workplace via inhalation and dermal contact during its manufacture or use. Consumers may be exposed to acrylic acid in polishes, paints, coatings, rug backings, adhesives, plastics, textiles, and paper finishes. In addition, acrylic acid may be released in wastewater and as emissions during its production and use. Individuals may be exposed by inhaling ambient air or ingesting contaminated water. Acrylic acid is also produced naturally by some species of algae. 

Health Effects [4]

Acute Effects

  • Acrylic acid is a strong irritant to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes in humans. The liquid may cause blindness if splashed into the eye. 
  • Acute (short-term) exposure of rats to acrylic acid by inhalation has been observed to produce nose and eye irritation, lung haemorrhage, and degenerative changes in the liver and kidneys. 
  • Tests involving acute exposure of rats, mice, and rabbits have demonstrated acrylic acid to have moderate acute toxicity by inhalation or ingestion, and high acute toxicity by dermal exposure. 

Chronic Effects 

  • Information on the chronic (long-term) effects of acrylic acid in humans is not available. 
  • In mice and rats chronically exposed to acrylic acid by inhalation, lesions of the nasal mucosa were observed. 
  • Reduced body weights and altered organ weights were observed in rats orally exposed to acrylic acid. 
  • The Reference Concentration (RfC) for acrylic acid is 0.001 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3) based on degeneration of the nasal olfactory epithelium in mice. 
  • The Reference Dose (RfD) for acrylic acid is 0.5 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/d) based on reduced pup weights in rats. 

Reproductive/Developmental Effects

  • No information is available on the reproductive or developmental effects of acrylic acid in humans.
  • Decreased body weight gain and decreased fertility were reported in one study of rats exposed to acrylic acid by ingestion, although the decrease in fertility was not statistically significant compared with the control. 
  • Embryotoxic and teratogenic effects (birth defects) were observed in rats injected with acrylic acid. 

Cancer Risk

  • No information is available on the carcinogenic effects of acrylic acid in humans.
  • In one study, squamous cell carcinomas of the skin were reported in mice treated topically with acrylic acid. Other animal studies have not reported carcinogenic effects. 
  • EPA has not classified acrylic acid for carcinogenicity.

Safety [5]

Fist Aid Measures 

  • Eye Contact: Check for and remove any contact lenses. In case of contact, immediately flush eyes with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Cold water may be used. Get medical attention immediately.
  • Skin Contact: In case of contact, immediately flush skin with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes while removing contaminated clothing and shoes. Cold water may be used. Wash clothing before reuse. Thoroughly clean shoes before reuse. Get medical attention immediately.
  • Serious Skin Contact: Wash with a disinfectant soap and cover the contaminated skin with an anti-bacterial cream. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Inhalation: If inhaled, remove to fresh air. If not breathing, give artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, give oxygen. Get medical attention immediately.
  • Serious Inhalation: Evacuate the victim to a safe area as soon as possible. Loosen tight clothing such as a collar, tie, belt or waistband. If breathing is difficult, administer oxygen. If the victim is not breathing, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. WARNING: It may be hazardous to the person providing aid to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the inhaled material is toxic, infectious or corrosive. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Ingestion: Do NOT induce vomiting unless directed to do so by medical personnel. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Loosen tight clothing such as a collar, tie, belt or waistband. Get medical attention if symptoms appear.

Handling & Storage

  • Keep locked up;
  • Keep container dry;
  • Keep away from heat;
  • Keep away from sources of ignition;
  • Ground all equipment containing material;
  • Do not ingest or breathe gas/fumes/ vapour/spray;
  • Never add water to this product. 
  • Keep away from incompatibles such as oxidising agents, acids, alkalis, moisture.
  • Store in a segregated and approved area;
  • Keep container in a cool, well-ventilated area;
  • Keep container tightly closed and sealed until ready for use. 

Exposure Controls & Personal Protection

Engineering Controls

  • Provide exhaust ventilation or other engineering controls to keep the airborne concentrations of vapours below their respective threshold limit value. 
  • Ensure that eyewash stations and safety showers are proximal to the work-station location.

Personal Protective Equipment

The following personal protective equipment is recommended when handling acrylic acid:

  • Face shield;
  • Full suit;
  • Vapour respirator (be sure to use an approved/certified respirator or equivalent);
  • Gloves;
  • Boots

Personal Protection in Case of a Large Spill:

  • Splash goggles;
  • Full suit;
  • Vapour respirator;
  • Boots;
  • Gloves. 
  • A self contained breathing apparatus should be used to avoid inhalation of the product. 
  • Suggested protective clothing might not be sufficient; consult a specialist BEFORE handling this product.

Regulation [3,6]

United States

ACGIH: The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has set a Threshold Limit Value (TLV) for acrylic acid of 2 ppm, 5.9 mg/m3 TWA ; Skin; Appendix A4, Not Classifiable as a Human Carcinogen

NIOSH: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has set a Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for acrylic acid of 2 ppm, 6 mg/m3 TWA; Skin


Safe Work Australia recommends an 8 hour time weighted average (TWA) exposure limit for acrylic acid of 2 ppm (5.9 mg/m3)