2-Propenamide (Acrylamide)

CAS Registry Number 79-06-1

What is it?

  • 2-Propenamide, also known as acrylamide, is an industrial chemical and can also form from naturally-occurring components of certain foods when cooked at high temperatures.

How is it used?

  • The majority of acrylamide is used in the manufacture of various polymers, which in turn are used as binding, thickening, or flocculating agents in grout, cement, sewage/waste water treatment, pesticide formulations, cosmetics, sugar manufacturing and soil erosion prevention, ore processing, food packaging, plastic products and in molecular biology laboratory applications.
  • In Canada, polyacrylamide is used as a coagulant and flocculant for the clarification of drinking water; it is also used in potting soils and as a non-medicinal ingredient in natural health products and pharmaceuticals.
  • Acrylamide is not manufactured in Canada but is imported into Canada.

Why did the Government of Canada assess it?

  • Prior to the assessment, acrylamide was identified as a potential concern to human health based on its classification by international organizations as a substance which was found to cause cancer in laboratory animals and which may cause genetic effects or other effects such as reproductive, developmental and neurological results, and based on a high potential for exposure to Canadians.

How are Canadians exposed to it?

  • Canadians are exposed to acrylamide in the diet as a result of its formation from naturally-occurring components of certain foods when cooked at high temperatures, such as French fries and potato chips. Acrylamide is not present in any ingredient of these foods prior to cooking and it is not a contaminant inadvertently added at any stage of food preparation.
  • The highest concentrations of acrylamide found in foods in Canada have been reported in potato chips and French fries. Acrylamide has also been found in breakfast cereals, pastries and cookies, breads, rolls and toast, cocoa products, coffee and coffee substitutes. Levels in these foods, however, are typically lower than those found in potato chips and French fries. 
  • Canadians are also exposed to acrylamide from its presence in cigarette smoke.
  • Intake from environmental media such as drinking water or air and use of consumer products is very low in comparison to intake from food or from smoking.

What are the results of the assessment?

  • The Government of Canada has conducted a science-based evaluation of acrylamide, called a screening assessment.
  • The Government of Canada has concluded that acrylamide is considered to be harmful to human health.

What is the Government of Canada doing?

  • The Government of Canada has already taken several steps to address acrylamide in food. This updated risk management approach, which will help to reduce Canadians ‘ exposure to acrylamide from food sources, includes a 3-prong strategy:
    • Health Canada will press industry towards the development and implementation of acrylamide reduction strategies by food processors and the food service industry.
    • Health Canada will regularly update and re-issue its consumption advice to consumers on how to limit their exposure to acrylamide from food sources, based on new scientific findings and monitoring data; and
    • Health Canada will coordinate its risk management and risk communication efforts with key international food regulatory partners.
  • The Government is proposing to add acrylamide to Health Canada's Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist. The Hotlist is linked to Government of Canada's requirement for the prohibition of substances in cosmetics that may cause injury.
  • Acrylamide will also be added to the Environmental Emergency Regulations of CEPA due to its high-volume use, to make sure emergency preparedness and response requirements are in place.
  • The final screening assessment and the proposed risk management approach were published on August 22, 2009. The proposed risk management approach will be followed by a 60-day comment period, ending October 21, 2009.

What should Canadians do?

  • More information on acrylamide in food is available on Health Canada’s website: Acrylamide and Food – Questions and Answers.
  • Cigarette smoke is also a significant source of acrylamide. Canadians are reminded that they should not smoke. For more information about smoking and how to quit, please visit Go Smoke Free or speak with your doctor.

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