CROFTON, Md., April 22, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Styrene is now one of 800 chemicals listed by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) as "known to the state" of California to cause cancer. In conjunction with its announcement to add styrene to the list of Proposition 65 chemicals, OEHHA released a comprehensive report, "Response to Comments Pertaining to the Notice of Intent to List Styrene as Causing Cancer Under Proposition 65", in which they agree that styrene is not the same as polystyrene and further point out that polystyrene is not the subject of the proposed listing.
While styrene is a building block chemical used to make the raw material for expanded polystyrene (EPS), there is often a great deal of confusion and a false impression that they are the same when in reality they are very different materials with unique chemical compositions. It is reassuring that OEHHA recognizes these differences and acknowledges "there is sufficient scientific information to demonstrate that the intended uses of these materials are safe." OEHHA also clarifies that, "While free or unreacted styrene may be present in such products, only styrene exposures that pose a significant cancer risk would require a warning."
With EPS, much like other products that are made using styrene, the amount of residual chemical after the point of manufacture is very small. In a common EPS coffee cup for example, the relative exposure from styrene is only 5-10 parts per billion (ppb). By contrast, naturally occurring styrene found in strawberries, cinnamon and beef can be as high as 200 ppb, still a very low amount. To this point, reports published by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), indicate the minute amount of styrene typically found in polystyrene products – including EPS – is not a concern.
Further confirmation of EPS' safety is asserted by Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., a preeminent toxicologist and Director of the NTP and the NIEHS. "Let me put your mind at ease right away about [EPS]. Levels of styrene that leach from food containers are hundreds if not thousands of times lower than have occurred in the occupational setting, where the chemical in vapor form poses a possible risk to workers. In finished products, certainly styrene is not an issue."
OEHHA's listing is based on the findings of the 12th edition of the National Toxicology Program's (NTP) Report on Carcinogens (RoC) that assesses the potential for risks associated with styrene, primarily in work environments where levels of styrene exposure may be higher. The RoC is a hazard identification document and does not present quantitative assessments of the risks of cancer associated with exposure to these substances. Thus a listing in the RoC only indicates a potential hazard and does not estimate cancer risks to individuals associated with exposures in their daily lives. According to Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the American Cancer Society's deputy chief medical officer, the American public is inundated with messages about the dangers posed by common things in our lives, yet most exposures "are not at a level that are going to cause cancer."
Questions should be directed to Betsy Steiner, Executive Director at the EPS Industry Alliance at (800)607-3772 or [email protected].
The EPS Industry Alliance is a trade association representing expanded polystyrene manufacturers in North American. EPS is widely used in building applications to provide energy efficient insulation solutions and as a superior cushioning material in transport packaging to safely deliver products in a variety of applications.
Contact: Mike Robertson, Communications Manager
SOURCE EPS Industry Alliance