Soil hydration has been an agricultural challenge for thousands of years. If you’ve had anything to do with irrigated agriculture in the past couple years, you’ve probably heard about Polyacrylamide(PAM). The next couple pages highlight some of the important points about this new “miracle product” for erosion control and water management.
Polyacrylamide is a polymer that is formed from units of acrylamide, a known neurotoxin. However, Polyacrylamide itself is not considered to be toxic, but is a controversial ingredient because of its potential ability to secrete Acrylamide, according to Wikipedia.
To date, the primary market for this compound has been municipal wastewater treatment facilities. PAM seeks out and binds to the broken edges of clay particles, which carry a negative charge. By increasing the cohesiveness of soil particles on the soil surface of a field, PAM makes soil more resistant to the highly erosive shear forces exerted by water flowing over it. It makes the fine solids in treated water adhere to one another until they become big enough to settle out or be captured by filters to make sewage sludge, and because of this feature, its use in agriculture is growing.
The greater infiltration associated with PAM-treated furrows can boost crop yields in sloping areas such that it’s almost like giving the farmer the added yield equivalent of another irrigation during the growing season. Studies have shown that because Polyacrylamide holds the top soil in place, it also keeps phosphorus, nitrogen, pesticides, weed seeds, and microorganism out of waste water.
It is also used in cosmetics and beauty products in two different forms, either as a soft gel in its cross-linked form, which has highly water-absorbent properties, or in its straight-chain form, as a thickener and suspending agent. It has also been used recently as an active ingredient in the subdermal wrinkle filler, Aquamid.
PAM is an ingredient in a variety of cosmetic and beauty products. Small beads may also be used in skin cleansing products as an abrasive. It dries to form a thin coating on the skin, hair, or nails; in hair care products, it helps hair hold its style by inhibiting the hair’s ability to absorb moisture; in makeup, it holds together the ingredients of a compressed tablet or cake; in sunscreen products, it aids in retaining sunscreen on the skin after immersion in water.