Styrene Industry Touts Its Safety

The new www.YouKnowStyrene.org from the Styrene Information & Research Center includes a section about exposure limits and health studies.

The styrene industry continues to challenge the 12th Report on Carcinogens released in June 2011 by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, where styrene (CAS No. 100-42-5) was listed for the first time as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." The Styrene Information & Research Center Inc., an industry trade association in Arlington, Va., vigorously opposes that listing, asserting peer-reviewed studies have found no link between exposures to the chemical and human cancer or other serious human health effects.

SIRC has urged the White House to commission a National Academy of Sciences review of the listing, saying the HHS assessment failed to "fairly and transparently" address the breadth of scientific data on styrene, including studies by the European Union and Health Canada. "The public confusion is exacerbated not just due to the scientific controversy, but because of conflicting statements by HHS staff," a group of manufacturers wrote in a Sept. 26 letter to the administration.

SIRC also has filed a lawsuit in a Washington, D.C., federal court challenging the listing.

Now, SIRC has created a new www.YouKnowStyrene.org website to make its case more strongly to the public. The site includes a section about exposure limits and health studies, a "green styrene" section, and a section about styrene's impact on jobs and the economy.

Long-term exposures above 30 ppm have been identified as possibly contributing to hearing loss, according to the site. It discusses the OSHA PEL, which is 100 ppm because a federal appeals court vacated OSHA's attempt in 1989 to lower it to 50 ppm. According to the site, SIRC and other associations representing manufacturers of styrene-based products encourage members to comply with the 50 ppm exposure limit, and several states have adopted and enforce it. OSHA has endorsed a styrene industry proposal to voluntarily meet 50 ppm exposure level, according to SIRC.

Styrene is a clear, colorless liquid that is a component in materials used to make food containers, packaging materials, cars, boats, computers, wind turbine blades, and many more products. It is derived from petroleum and natural gas byproducts.

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