Acrylonitrile in freshwater and marine water

​​​Toxicant default guideline values for protecting aquatic ecosystems

October 2000

Extracted from Section 8.3.7 ‘Detailed descriptions of chemicals'​ of the ANZECC & ARMCANZ (2000) guidelines.

The default guideline values (previously known as ‘trigger values’) and associated information in this technical brief should be used in accordance with the detailed guidance provided in the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality.

Description of chemical

The major use of acrylonitrile (CAS 107-13-1) (CH2=CHCN) is used in the manufacture of copolymers for the production of acrylic fibres. Other uses include the manufacture of oil-resistant rubbers, resins, elastomers and other chemicals (USEPA 1980i). World consumption was estimated at 3.8 million tonnes per year in 1990 (Nielsen et al. 1993b). Acrylonitrile has formula C3H3N and molecular weight 53.1. It is soluble in water to 74 g/L (Nielsen et al. 1993b). The toxic effects of acrylonitrile are similar to cyanide poisoning (USEPA 1980i).

Aquatic toxicology

Freshwater fish: eight species, 48 to 96-hour LC50, 8400 to 70,000 µg/L.

Freshwater crustaceans: one species, Daphnia magna 48-hour LC50 or EC50 immobilisation 7600 to 10,750 µg/L.

Marine crustacean: one species, Crangon crangon, 24-hour LC50 only of 8 to 26 µg/L.


There were insufficient data to derive reliable trigger values for acrylonitrite. A low reliability trigger value of 8 µg/L was derived for fresh and marine systems using an assessment factor (AF) of 1000 on the lowest freshwater data. These figures should only be used as indicative interim working levels.


ANZECC & ARMCANZ 2000. Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality, Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra.

Nielsen IR, Diment J & Dobson S 1993b. Environmental hazard assessment: Acrylonitrile. TSD 11, Toxic Substances Division, Department of the Environment, Garston, UK.

USEPA 1980i. Ambient water quality criteria for acrylonitrile. Criteria and Standards Division, US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC. EPA-PB 81-117285.