Acrolein is mutagenic in bacteria but did not cause increased tumor incidence in animals exposed chronically by injection or inhalation. Administration to pregnant rats caused malformations and lethality to embryos. Chronic exposure to as little as 0.21 ppm acrolein caused inflammatory changes in lungs, liver, kidneys, and brains of experimental animals.

Flammability and Explosibility

Acrolein is a highly flammable liquid (NFPA rating = 3) and its vapor can travel a considerable distance and "flash back." Acrolein vapor forms explosive mixtures with air at concentrations of 2.8 to 31% (by volume). Carbon dioxide or dry chemical extinguishers should be used for acrolein fires.

Reactivity and Incompatibility

Acrolein can polymerize violently upon exposure to heat (temperatures above 50 °C), light, or various chemical initiators such as amines, bases, and acids. Commercial acrolein contains an inhibitor such as hydroquinone; samples from which the inhibitor has been removed (e.g., by distillation) are extremely hazardous.

Storage and Handling

Because of its corrosivity, flammability, and high acute toxicity, acrolein should be handled using the "basic prudent practices" of Chapter 5.C, supplemented by the additional precautions for work with compounds of high toxicity (Chapter 5.D) and extremely flammable substances (Chapter 5.F). In particular, work with acrolein should be conducted in a fume hood to prevent exposure by inhalation, and splash goggles and butyl rubber gloves should be worn at all times to prevent eye and skin contact. Acrolein should be used only in areas free of ignition sources. Containers of acrolein should be stored in secondary containers in areas separate from amines, oxidizers, acids, and bases.


In the event of skin contact, immediately wash with soap and water and remove contaminated clothing. In case of eye contact, promptly wash with copious amounts of water for 15 min (lifting upper and lower lids occasionally) and obtain medical attention. If acrolein is ingested, obtain medical attention immediately. If acrolein is inhaled, move the person to fresh air and seek medical attention at once, since immediate or delayed respiratory injury may result.

In the event of a spill, remove all ignition sources, soak up the acrolein with a spill pillow or absorbent material, place in an appropriate container, and dispose of properly. Respiratory protection should be employed owing to the risk of severe eye, nose, and respiratory injury.


Excess acrolein and waste material containing this substance should be placed in an appropriate container, clearly labeled, and handled according to your institution's waste disposal guidelines. For more information on disposal procedures, see Chapter 7 of this volume.

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