CAS RN: 107-02-8

Toxicity Summary

IDENTIFICATION AND USE: Acrolein is a colorless or yellowish liquid. Acrolein is a biocide currently registered as an herbicide to control aquatic weeds in irrigation canals, as a burrow fumigant to control rodents, and as a microbiocide to eliminate slime-forming microbes in oil drilling operations, pulp and paper mills, and in industrial cooling towers. It has activity as a molluscicide, but is not currently registered for use against mollusks. It is an intermediate for synthetic glycerol, polyurethane and polyester resins, methionine, and pharmaceuticals. In World War I, it was used as a tear gas under the name Papite. HUMAN EXPOSURE AND TOXICITY: The threshold levels of acrolein causing irritation and health effects are 0.7 mg/ cu m for odor perception, 0.13 mg/cu m for eye irritation, 0.3 mg/cu m for nasal irritation and eye blinking, and 0.7 mg/cu m for decreased respiratory rate. Potential symptoms of overexposure are irritation of eyes, skin and mucous membranes; decreased pulmonary function; delayed pulmonary edema; chronic respiratory disease. Intense lacrimation and nasal irritation ordinarily give adequate warning of inhalation, but exposed patients should be observed for 24 hr for a slowly developing pulmonary edema. Acrolein is ciliastatic and capable of causing direct tissue damage similar to that reported for formaldehyde. Acrolein has a relatively short half-life and exerts its greatest effects on the upper and lower respiratory tract. Acrolein is also a weak sensitizer and may elicit asthma-type reactions. Accidental exposure to vapors of acrolein produced burns of the cheeks and eyelids in a male subject. ANIMAL STUDIES: Exposure of rats to airborne concentrations of acrolein of 100-40,000 ppm for short periods of time (<1 hour) caused death ranging from minutes to 11 days. Death was attributed to obstruction of trachea and bronchi, pulmonary edema, or hemorrhage. In animals and humans the reactivity of acrolein effectively confines the substance to the site of exposure, and pathological findings are also limited to these sites. Acrolein reacts directly with protein and non-protein sulfhydryl groups and with primary and secondary amines. Acrolein is a cytotoxic agent. In vitro cytotoxicity has been observed as low as 0.1 mg/liter. The substance is highly toxic to experimental animals and humans following a single exposure via different routes. The vapor is irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract. Liquid acrolein is a corrosive substance. At higher single exposure levels, degeneration of the respiratory epithelium, inflammatory sequelae, and perturbation of respiratory function develop. In general, body weight gain reduction, decrement of pulmonary function, and pathological changes in nose, upper airways, and lungs have been documented in most species exposed to concentrations of 1.6 mg/cu m or more for 8 hr/day. Pathological changes include inflammation, metaplasia, and hyperplasia of the respiratory tract. Significant mortality has been observed following repeated exposures to acrolein vapor at concentrations above 9.7 mg/ cu m. In experimental animals acrolein has been shown to deplete tissue glutathione and in in vitro studies, to inhibit enzymes by reacting with sulfhydryl groups at active sites. There is limited evidence that acrolein can depress pulmonary host defenses in mice and rats. The reduction in removal of bacteria from the alveolar spaces may result from the destruction of functionality of alveolar macrophages present in the respiratory epithelium. Inhalation studies with acrolein revealed that this aldehyde has significant cardiovascular activity at concentrations below those which might be encountered in cigarette smoke. Predominant effect of inhaled acrolein at these doses was an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Long-term oral exposure to acrolein, at an amount within the range of human unsaturated aldehyde intake, induces a phenotype of dilated cardiomyopathy in the mouse. Acrolein can induce teratogenic and embryotoxic effects if administered directly into the amnion. Acrolein has been shown to interact with nucleic acids in vitro and to inhibit their synthesis both in vitro and in vivo. Without activation it induced gene mutations in bacteria and fungi and caused sister chromatid exchanges in mammalian cells. ECOTOXICITY STUDIES: Acrolein is very highly toxic (LD50 <10 mg/kg) to birds on an acute oral exposure basis. Acrolein is very toxic to aquatic organisms. Acute EC50 and LC50 values for bacteria, algae, crustacea, and fish are between 0.02 and 2.5 mg/liter, bacteria being the most sensitive species. A number of fish kills have been reported for acrolein.
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