The background documents referred to in this chapter may be found on the Water
Sanitation and Health website at http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/
Residual acrylamide monomer occurs in polyacrylamide coagulants used in the treat-
ment of drinking-water. In general, the maximum authorized dose of polymer is
1 mg/litre. At a monomer content of 0.05%, this corresponds to a maximum theoret-
ical concentration of 0.5mg/litre of the monomer in water. Practical concentrations
may be lower by a factor of 2–3. This applies to the anionic and non-ionic polyacry-
lamides, but residual levels from cationic polyacrylamides may be higher. Polyacry-
lamides are also used as grouting agents in the construction of drinking-water
reservoirs and wells. Additional human exposure might result from food, owing to the
use of polyacrylamide in food processing and the potential formation of acrylamide
in foods cooked at high temperatures.
0.0005 mg/litre (0.5 mg/litre)
Concentrations of a few micrograms per litre have been detected in
Basis of guideline
Combined mammary, thyroid and uterine tumours observed in
female rats in a drinking-water study, and using the linearized
Limit of detection
0.032 mg/litre by GC; 0.2 mg/litre by HPLC; 10 mg/litre by HPLC with UV
Conventional treatment processes do not remove acrylamide.
Acrylamide concentrations in drinking-water are controlled by limiting
either the acrylamide content of polyacrylamide flocculants or the
dose used, or both.
Although the practical quantification level for acrylamide in most
laboratories is above the guideline value (generally in the order of 1
mg/litre), concentrations in drinking-water can be controlled by
product and dose specification.
Chemical fact sheets
12. CHEMICAL FACT SHEETS
Following ingestion, acrylamide is readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and