Cross-linked polyacrylamide can be found in many products, including makeup and injections for plastic surgery, but its main use is in eco-restoration. While it is nontoxic itself, you should keep it away from pets.
Polyacrylamide is not toxic; however, it can eventually break down into acrylamide, which is a skin irritant and toxic to ingest. If the cross-linked polyacrylamide begins to degrade into acrylamide, it can be carcinogenic, although small amounts are not harmful.
Polyacrylamide is mildly irritating to skin and eyes; however, in laboratory tests, dogs have been fed up to 5 percent polyacrylamide diets safely for two years, so the chance of irritation is minimal in small amount. It is with large amounts that irritation from the granules becomes a concern.
The primary reason to keep polyacrylamide away from pets is that it is extremely water absorbent. The crystals are planted under trees because they absorb water, which the plant can use later. As they do this, the crystals turn into a gel that expands up to 500 times their original size. Inside of an animal, this could cause the intestines to become obstructed, which can be fatal.
- BioOne: Polyacrylamide Gel Ingestion Leading to Fatal Intestinal Obstruction in Two Birds in a Zoological Collection
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Amended Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Polyacrylamide and Acrylamide Residues in Cosmetics.
- Water Crystals: Homepage
- Castle International Resources: Material Safety Data Sheet
- dog image by Krzysztof Gebarowski from Fotolia.com