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Acrylamide and Its Effects on the Community

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sciences
Wordcount: 1976 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Acrylamide, C3H5NO, is toxic and can be absorbed quickly by the skin and is recommended to regulate exposure levels. Large amounts of acrylamide can lead to many health issues such as nervous system degeneration, Parkinsonism, peripheral neuropathy, and paresthesia. Acrylamide is found in many fried, roasted, and toasted foods and in tobacco or cigarette smoke. It can also be found in its polymerized form, polyacrylamide, which is found in drinking water or many beauty products. Acrylamide naturally forms in food but can be avoided by choosing healthier alternatives and avoiding fried or roasted foods. Signs, that are in accordance to Prop. 65, are seen in many coffee businesses to warn customers about harmful chemicals that may cause health issues. There are many people to contact to learn more about acrylamide, such as the National Toxicology Program, NTP.

Acrylamide and Its Effects on the Community

Ever since acrylamide was discovered in 2002, it has been a widely researched topic for health risks. Acrylamide is a synthetic chemical that is formed naturally in certain foods. Large amounts of acrylamide are known to highly toxic and can cause many health issues. Since it is toxic, many industries use acrylamide in its polymerized form, polyacrylamide. Polyacrylamide is not toxic but, people believe that it can still release acrylamide. Even today, scientists are trying to discover its effects and ways to prevent it.

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Chemical Description

Acrylamide has the chemical formula of C3H5NO and has a molar mass of 71.08g/mol (“Acrylamide,” 2017). Since acrylamide has a covalent bond, it is a poor conductor of heat and electric current. It has a melting point of 84.5℃ and a boiling point of 125℃ (“Acrylamide,” 2017). Acrylamide is a white crystalline, odorless solid at room temperature. Since it is highly toxic, it is usually found as an aqueous solution. It has a glassy sheen and is “less dense than and soluble in water” (“Acrylamide,” 2017). Acrylamide is also slightly flammable, having a flammability hazard of 2.

Chemical Effects

Large amounts of acrylamide can increase the chances of obtaining health problems. Jobs such as factory workers, coal miners, tunnel workers, and constructors have been exposed to large amounts of acrylamide. According to human case studies, most workers that have been exposed to large amounts of acrylamide ended up with peripheral neuropathy (Malaguarnera et al., 2013). The peripheral nerves connect the brain and the spinal cord to the muscles, skin, and internal organs. When a nerve is damaged, it can cause disconnection or interruption between a certain part of the body and the brain. Peripheral neuropathy usually causes weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet. Exposure to acrylamide can also cause nervous system degeneration. This can cause muscle weakness and dizziness and affect balance, muscle coordination, and memory. Acrylamide can also cause Parkinsonism. This disease can cause tremors, which is an involuntary movement or shaking. Parkinsonism may also cause dementia. Large amounts of acrylamide can also lead to paresthesia, also known as pins and needles. Paresthesia gives a tingling or numb feeling to the skin with no reasonable cause. Studies in rodents have found that acrylamide can cause many types of cancer. In the rodents, the acrylamide was converted to the compound glycidamide. Glycidamide can cause mutations or damage to the DNA, which leads to cancer. It is not known if it is a human carcinogen, but based on studies it is recommended to regulate exposure to acrylamide.

Where Is It Found

Acrylamide is found in foods that have been roasted, fried, or cooked at high heat for long periods of time.  It is found in many potato-based foods such as french fries and potato chips since they were processed at high temperatures. It is estimated that french fries are the source for 25% of people’s acrylamide intake (“Sources,” n.d). Cereal is another source of acrylamide with “Wheatena Toasted Wheat Cereal containing 1057 ppb” (“Acrylamide,” n.d.) and “General Mills Cheerios with 266 ppb” (“Acrylamide,” n.d.). Cereal takes up about 12% of people’s acrylamide intake (“Sources,” n.d.). It is also found in peanut butter that has been made with roasted or toasted nuts, or roasted nuts in general. Another large source of acrylamide is canned black olives. Canned black olives are found to have twice the amount of acrylamide compared to french fries. Cookies and crackers also contain quite large amounts of acrylamide. They account for about 13% of acrylamide dietary intake (“Acrylamide,” n.d.). Coffee is one of the most common sources of large amounts of acrylamide. Since people drink coffee very often, they are exposed to large amounts of acrylamide. In a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, they discovered that coffee is the biggest source for Swedish women, about “54% of their acrylamide intake” (“Sources,” n.d.). Some brands of cocoa also contain quite large amounts of acrylamide, such as “Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa mix with 316 ppb” (“Sources,” n.d.) and “Hershey’s Original Cocoa Formula with 909 ppb” (“Sources,” n.d.) of acrylamide. Another large and common source of acrylamide is in tobacco and cigarette smoke. It is found that smokers’ exposure to acrylamide is higher by “50% compared to non-smokers” (Cendrowski et al., 2016). It is also found in numerous beauty products as polyacrylamide. Some beauty products it is found in are brown liner, mascara, moisturizer, face wash, sunscreen, and hairspray. Polyacrylamide is also used as a treatment for drinking water.

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Why Is It Used.

Acrylamide is a naturally occurring chemical in foods. Acrylamide is used to make polyacrylamide which is used in many beauty products. It is used as a stabilizer and binder for the products. It helps keep makeup in its compact form because it binds all the ingredients together. When polyacrylamide dries, it forms a thin coat on the skin, hair, or nails, depending on the product. In hairspray, this thin coat help keeps the hair stabilized and sets it in place. Polyacrylamide also helps make sunscreen “waterproof.” It helps it adhere to the skin so that it doesn’t get removed by the water. Small beads made by polyacrylamide is also in facewash. The beads are used as an exfoliator to help remove dead skin off the skin. Polyacrylamide is also used as a treatment for drinking water.


Even though acrylamide naturally forms in foods, there are still many ways to prevent and avoid it. Probably the simplest way to avoid acrylamide is to read product labels and check for acrylamide or polyacrylamide. Some other ways to avoid acrylamide forming in foods is to fry them at 338℉ or lower or avoid frying and roasting in general. Before frying potatoes, soak the slices in water for about 20 minutes and dry them. Also when frying potatoes, fry them to a golden yellow rather than golden brown. It is also recommended to not store raw potatoes in the refrigerator. Also, try to toast bread to the lightest color possible. Another recommendation is to look for healthier alternatives to foods high in acrylamide. For example, instead of roasted or toasted nuts, go for raw or lightly salted nuts. It is also better to make homemade cookies instead of store-bought cookies because store-bought cookies are baked at high temperatures. Lastly, it is suggested to drink tea or herbal infusions instead of coffee.

Community Case Study

The Asia-Pacific is the largest producer of acrylamide due to their growing industry. However, acrylamide has also greatly affected rodents and children.  Rodents are targeted because they are used in studies in order to learn if acrylamide is carcinogenic. Children have a higher exposure to dietary acrylamide because of their lower body weight compared to adults. In an experiment with the Dutch population, their average daily intake of acrylamide was “0.48 µg/kg body weight/day” (Barnes et al., 2014). They also conducted the same experiment but instead measuring children’s intake of the same population, it was estimated at “1.04 µg/kg body weight/day” (Barnes et al., 2014), which is twice the amount compared to the rest of the population. The Swedish discovered and announced that acrylamide is possibly carcinogenic in 2002. About eight years later, people were concerned about acrylamide and its health risks. In 2010, the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, CERT, filed a lawsuit against about “160 businesses that sell coffee” (Powell, 2018), such as Starbucks, asking that they label their coffee with Prop. 65 warnings, or signs that show that coffee has cancer-causing chemicals. The Los Angeles judge ruled in favor and agreed that companies needed to show the health risks of their products. Even though acrylamide isn’t illegal, businesses must now put a clear warning that their products contain chemicals that may cause health issues.



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