Home Podcasts THMG152 – Acrolein, Part I

THMG152 – Acrolein, Part I


Mike and Bob break down one of the best chemicals for instructors to use for scenarios out there. We discuss the incredible chemical and physical properties that will give students the scratching of the head that we are looking for in our classes.

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    1. 152
    2. History
      1. Acrolein is the simplest unsaturated aldehyde.


  • For those of you who may not remember an aldehyde is an organic compound with a oxygen double bonded end carbon. So the end carbon has both a double bonded o, a hydrogen and the rest of the chain.


      1. Not to be confused with a ketone right. Which the o is on one of the inside carbons.
    1. It is quite reactive and has a lot of various uses in the industrial world
        1. But it actually got its start as a potential chemical warfare adjacent. It was used by the French in WW1 as a replacement for halogenated tear gases. While the toxicity would have made this a great weapon, its reactivity turned out be its downfall.
          1. Because of its powerful ability to react it would spontaneously turn into a harmless wax or gum like liquid. Well long story short it turn out this chemical was one of the first be labeled an antioxidant and small amounts added to items like fuel and food to help preserve these items from the destructive nature of oxygen.
        2. It is used as an intermediate compound to drive chemical reactions. This is very useful when you trying to convert raw materials into something else.
            1. Its is also a monomer and used to create polymers. Polymers are things like plastics, paints, adhesive even those little balls of plastic that absorbed insane amount of liquids known as supper absorbent polymers.
              1. It does have the ability to polymerize. When being stored it is often storied with a chemical called hydroquinone. It is also preferable to store this chemical with an inert atmosphere in the head space.
    2. Acrylic acid is formed from acrolein. Which is used in manmade fibers, and flexible plastic.
    3. Because of its toxicity it has uses as a pesticide, herbicide and microbicide.
    4. It is a precursor used in irritant such as tear gas and other incapsitiating agents
    5. We as firefighter come across acrolein all the time. It is a product of combustion of hydrocarbons. Expect for grandma house that hasn’t had anything updated since 1954 all modern things are made of hydrocarbon
        1. Plastics, foam, nylon, everything these days seems to be hydrocarbon base and the formation of acrolein in the air is a clear and present hazard. We will talk a little more about toxicity later in the show.
        2. And as we go threw the toxicity and PPE keep in mind some of the numbers associated with the various level of this chemical. Considering that its both skin hazard and an inhalation hazard its not hard to see why we dying of cancer.
    6. Believe it or not but restaurant workers have been inadvertently exposed to enough acryocline to cause harm. When fats decompose and high temperatures it produces acrolynee. There have been a multitude of cases in which fryers that have malfunctioned and overheated


    1. Chemical properties
      1. Flash point -29 °C (-20 °F) – closed cup
      2. Upper/lower flammability or explosive limits Upper explosion limit: 31 %(V) Lower explosion limit: 2.8 %(V)
      3. Vapour pressure (209.4 mmHg) at 20 °C (68 °F)
      4. Vapour density 1.94 – (Air = 1.0)
      5. Relative density 0.839 g/mL at 25 °C (77 °F)
      6. Solubility 40%
      7. IP is 10.3 ev


  • Incompatibilities & Reactivities Oxidizers, acids, alkalis, ammonia, amines [Note: Polymerizes readily unless inhibited–usually with hydroquinone. May form shock-sensitive peroxides over time.



  1. Toxicity
    1. IDLH 2ppm
    2. Adverse health effects have been shown to occur in humans at concentrations as low as 0.09 ppm;
    3. serious irreversible health effects may occur at concentrations as low as 0.4 ppm for 10 minutes;
    4. OSHA does not allow workers to be exposed to concentrations over 0.3 ppm for longer than 15 minutes;
    5. the 8-hour workplace standard is 0.1 ppm; and
    6. from the CDC “The symptoms of lung edema often do not become manifest until a few hours have passed and they are aggravated by physical effort. Rest and medical observation are therefore essential. Immediate administration of an appropriate inhalation therapy by a doctor or a person authorized by him/her, should be considered. An added stabilizer or inhibitor can influence the toxicological properties of this substance, consult an expert. The odour warning when the exposure limit value is exceeded is insufficient. The occupational exposure limit value should not be exceeded during any part of the working exposure. Check for peroxides prior to distillation; render harmless if positive.
  2. Fire    
    1. This is tough one. I think a lot of factors have to be weighed out on how to battle the fire.
        1. Acrolein is of itself very toxic. And somewhat soluble. Fighting the fire might produce and even worse hazmat scene.
        2. At the same time the smoke from this type of fire is also poisons. So here is great example of which is worse. I might make the spill bigger but we know have far in the neighbor smoke goes. So my options are a poison cloud of smoke or a large off gassing puddle.
        3. We can’t even begin to offer and answer for this. It all depends on the environmental and situation.


The Hazmat Guys

Author: The Hazmat Guys

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