Frequently Asked Questions

What are Acrylates?

Acrylates are a family of monomers that serve as fundamental building blocks for a wide variety of industrial and consumer products. Acrylates (acrylic monomers) are used as starting materials for polymerization and copolymerization reactions, and contribute enhanced performance properties in the products where they are used.

From the perspective of BAMM and the information contained on this website, Acrylates or acrylic monomers are specifically Acrylic Acid and its basic esters - Methyl Acrylate, Ethyl Acrylate, n-Butyl Acrylate, iso-Butyl Acrylate, tert-Butyl Acrylate and 2-Ethylhexyl Acrylate.

What are monomers and polymers?

A monomer is a chemical molecule that combines with other monomer molecules to form a long chain or network. Monomers are like links in a chain. The chain of molecules is called a polymer. Oligomers are similar to polymers, but are short chains made up of only a few monomers. The physical, chemical and toxic properties of polymers and oligomers will vary depending on the length of the chain. In general, the properties of polymers are very different from the properties of the monomers used to produce them. For example acrylic yarns are polymers, typically produced from liquid monomers.

What are acrylics? Are they the same as acrylates or acrylic monomers?

Acrylics is a very general term used to describe a wide variety of consumer products, fabrics, paints, plastics and in some cases the basic building block chemicals used to produce the polymers that make up these products. The use of the term is so diverse that the attributes or properties of one group of “acrylics” is not relevant to another group which may also be characterized loosely as “acrylics”. Acrylates (acrylic monomers) are some of the basic building block chemicals that are used to create the polymers or plastics that we find in the acrylic consumer products you may know. In addition, there are “methacrylates”. For more information about methacrylates visit the MPA website.

Acrylics come in many forms depending on their intended uses. Acrylic acid and the monomers described in the BAMM website are industrial chemicals used to make larger molecules. Depending on the degree of processing these can range from oligomers, which are small to medium sized molecules, to very large polymers. The structure and size of the chemicals determine their degree of chemical reactivity and their physical properties. Some are made from a single monomer type and others can have a variety of acrylate starting materials or blends of acrylate and other types of monomers.

What are the benefits of acrylates?

Acrylates (acrylic acid and its basic esters) have been used for more than 50 years as essential building blocks in the production of some of our most commonly used industrial and consumer products. They are commonly used in paints, coatings, textiles, adhesives, plastics, hygienic products, detergents, and in water purification and waste water treatment processes.

In industry, acrylates are widely used as building blocks due to their chemical structure and useful chemical function. In the products these monomers are used to produce, they impart properties such as adhesion, flexibility, hardness control, abrasion protection, water resistance, increased durability, weathering and sunlight resistance, and resistance to oils and greases.

Are acrylates regulated?

Yes. Acrylates (acrylic acid and its basic esters) are subject to a number of federal and international statutes and regulations. Some of the regulations are designed to protect the health of workers, consumers and the environment. Others define requirements for transport, shipping and disposal. Still others give approval for certain uses and may also set concentration limits for these uses.

The potential health effects of acrylate monomers are mainly due to their potential to cause irritation and skin allergy. Based on these potential effects, regulatory authorities have set occupational exposure limits which help protect workers by minimizing their exposure to acrylate monomers. The potential for consumer exposure to acrylate monomers is very low.

Some acrylate polymers, manufactured using the acrylate monomers referenced by BAMM are used in the food packaging industry. These polymers have been evaluated by the US FDA and have been approved for food contact.

Do acrylates cause cancer?

The potential for acrylates (acrylic acid and its basic esters) to cause cancer has been evaluated laboratory studies. Results from these studies illustrate that none of the acrylate member substances tested produced cancer of known relevance to humans. The acrylate member substances do not carry a cancer classification under the European Union harmonized classification and labelling of hazardous substances (CLP). See Table 3.1, Annex VI, Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008.

Unlike the EU, there is no harmonization of classifications in the US. However, EU CLP is aligned with the United Nations Globally Harmonized Standards for Classification and Labeling (GHS), as is the US OSHA hazard communication standard. Using the OSHA GHS guidelines, BAMM member companies have not classified any acrylates for cancer.

Additional information on the individual substances can be found HERE.

Do acrylates cause birth defects?

Acrylates (acrylic acid and its basic esters) have been tested in reproductive and developmental toxicity studies and do not produce birth defects.

Do acrylates harm the environment?

The potential for the release of acrylates (acrylic acid or one its basic esters) to the environment is very low. They biodegrade rapidly in the environment. They are not expected to bind to soil or sediment. Acrylic acid and the acrylic ester monomers are chemicals which evaporate easily and are unlikely to persist in the environment. If released to air, they will undergo degradation within days.

The basic acylate esters have a moderate to low toxicity in fish, algae, and daphnia, whereas acrylic acid is highly toxic to algae and moderately toxic to fish and daphnia. Coupled with their biodegradability, these substances indicate moderate to low chronic toxicity to aquatic organisms.

Am I exposed to acrylates?

The potential for consumer exposure to acrylates (acrylic acid and its basic esters) is very low. There is potential for worker exposure to acrylates during manufacturing, transportation, and formulation, therefore engineering controls and personal protective equipment are required to minimize significant exposures.

Are acrylates used in cosmetics like gel nails or other personal care products?

The acrylates (acrylic acid and its basic esters) described in the BAMM website are not intended for use "as is" in cosmetic or personal care products. However, they can be used as the building blocks to synthesize some of the more complex materials used as ingredients in these applications. As building blocks, the acrylates are chemically converted to new materials. The basic acrylates are not typically present in the finished consumer product except in trace or residual levels.

Are acrylates in household products?

The acrylates (acrylic acid and its basic esters) described here are used as the starting materials, or building blocks, to make synthetic acrylic materials used in many common household materials.

These monomers are chemically converted to new materials which are then used to produce products available to the consumers. Acrylic acid and the basic esters are not typically present in the finished consumer product except in trace or residual levels.

These consumer products include fibers, fabrics for clothing or household items like furniture or draperies, and plastics of various types. They are used in to make coatings that are applied as a finish for leather goods or paper products. They are also used to make paints and adhesives.: for crafts, do-it-yourself home improvement projects, or industrial applications. There are also some acrylate based materials used in to produce cosmetic or personal care products.

Are acrylates naturally occurring?

Acrylates (acrylic acid and its basic esters) are industrially produced chemicals, however there are few reports on basic acrylates occurring naturally. Methyl- and ethyl acrylate are detected as a component in pineapple extract. Ethyl acrylate is also described to occur naturally in blackberries, raspberries, pineapples, yellow passion fruit and durian.