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Acute acrylonitrile intoxication in humans, like many volatile organic compounds, results in irritation of the eyes and nose, weakness, labored breathing, dizziness, impaired judgement, cyanosis, nausea, and convulsions. Unlike many of these other organics, acrylonitrile causes severe burns upon contact with the liquid chemical. Some significant functional disorders of the liver and kidney are observed under subchronic exposure conditions; while chronic exposure results in signs (unthrifty appearance, weight loss and early death) that may be related to the low food and water consumption resulting from the unpleasant taste of acrylonitrile in water. Pathological changes in rats believed to be treatment related include hyperplasia and hyperkeratosis of the squamous cells in the brain and mammary gland hyperplasia in females. The present data base from human and toxicologic studies provides enough evidence such that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has characterized acrylonitrile as an animal carcinogen and a likely human carcinogen. Unlike the animal bioassay data, the human data base does not unequivocally demonstrate a causal association.
Basu, D., R. Hsu, M. Neal, J. Santodonato, AND R. Sugatt. Health Assessment Document for Acrylonitrile (Final Report). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., EPA/600/8-82/007F (NTIS PB84149152), 1983.