Acrylamide Occupational Exposures

Acrylamide Occupational Exposures


Inhalation and dermal contact are the most important routes of occupational exposure.[1] CAREX Canada estimates that 8,700 Canadians are exposed to acrylamide in the workplace.


The main industries exposed are foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors; utility system construction; and highway, street, and bridge construction. The occupations with the most workers exposed are construction trade helpers and labourers, followed by concrete finishers and underground production and development miners.​

Other sources of occupational exposure may occur in pulp and paper manufacturing, oil drilling, textile and cosmetics manufacturing, food processing, plastics manufacturing, mining, and agricultural industries.[2] People working in labs where polyacrylamide gels are prepared may also be exposed.[3]

Some occupational exposure measurements (including dermal measurements) and task-related information are available in a risk assessment from the EU.[4]

Prevalence Estimate

Results show that approximately 8,700 Canadians are potentially exposed to acrylamide at work; 91% of these workers are male. The largest industrial group exposed is foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors where acrylamide is used in cement and concrete to slow the dehydration process and improve structural strength, as well as for water-proofing. Other industries where exposure may occur include utility system construction and highway, street, and bridge construction.

When exposure is examined by occupation, the largest exposed groups are construction trade helpers and labourers (2,800 workers exposed), followed by concrete finishers (2,200 workers exposed, underground production and development miners (530 workers exposed), and labourers in mineral and metal processing (480).

The number of workers exposed to acrylamide decreased by approximately 530 workers from 2006 to 2016 (a 6% decrease). This was primarily driven by a decrease in the number of workers in the pulp and paper industry. However, additional workers were exposed in the construction industry due to an increase in the total number of workers within the construction industry.

Workers exposed to acrylamide by industry in 2016

Workers exposed to acrylamide by region in 2016

Click the second tab to view total number of workers exposed.

* = < 50 workers
Methods and Data

Our Occupational Approach page outlines the general approach used to calculate prevalence and exposure level estimates for workplace exposures.

Data Sources

Data used in developing the occupational estimates for acrylamide were collected from several sources:

  1. The Canadian Workplace Exposure Database (CWED) contains less than 50 measurements for acrylamide exposure. These measurements were collected during the years 1991 to 1995 in Ontario workplaces.
  2. Canadian and US scientific peer reviewed publications that addressed acrylamide exposure in Canada and the United States.
  3. Grey literature including technical reports from governments and international bodies.

Prevalence Estimate Method

CAREX defines exposure to acrylamide as inhalation exposure at work to acrylamide or polyacrylamide (containing acrylamide monomer) likely exceeding non-occupational exposure (i.e. from food sources).

To determine the number of workers potentially exposed to acrylamide at work, CAREX occupational exposure experts used methods previously established in other peer-reviewed CAREX projects in Europe. A series of steps were taken to assign exposure proportions to occupations and industries at risk of exposure to acrylamide.

  1. Occupations and industries at risk of possible exposure to acrylamide were identified using any combination of data sources described above.
  2. The total number of workers in each identified occupation and industry intersection was obtained from Statistics Canada 2016 census data.
  3. A percentage of workers exposed was assigned to that occupation and industry intersection. Percentages were determined by consultation with existing evidence in the data sources, previously established methods from the Europe CAREX estimates and the expert judgement of CAREX occupational hygienists.
  4. The number of workers in the identified group is multiplied by the assigned percentage to calculate the prevalence estimate of workers exposed to acrylamide.

1. National Toxicology Program (NTP). 14th report on carcinogens for acrylamide (2016) (PDF)
2. US National Library of Medicine. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 6579, Acrylamide
3. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Monograph summary, Volume 60 (1994) (PDF)
4. European Commission. EU Risk Assessment: Acrylamide (2002) (PDF)

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As a national organization, our work extends across borders into many Indigenous lands throughout Canada. We gratefully acknowledge that our host institution, the University of British Columbia Point Grey campus, is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people.