Acrylonitrile may be found in the environment, though current monitoring and modeling data indicate that levels are very low. The presence of acrylonitrile in the environment is primarily due to releases from industrial operations and/or combustion sources. Due to its volatility, the air is generally the environmental media of greatest interest for acrylonitrile. Acrylonitrile is biologically degradable and is not expected to be persistent in the environment or to bioaccumulate/bioconcentrate in plants or animals. Acrylonitrile is partially soluble in water and at higher concentrations in water (which is only likely to occur from an accidental release) it can cause adverse effects in aquatic species.
In the U.S., releases of acrylonitrile into the environment from industrial sources are highly controlled by a variety of environmental regulations. In fact, air emissions of acrylonitrile in the U.S. from industrial operations have decreased by 92% over the past two decades (see TRI report).
In the EU, acrylonitrile is classified as a category 2 chronic aquatic toxicant based on the available aquatic toxicity data. This classification carries with it the following hazard statement and warning label pictogram
Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.