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Styrene & Exposure Concerns

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Published on Oct 14, 2015

Styrene is a colorless to yellow liquid that is highly flammable and evaporates easily. It is a volatile organic compound (VOC) that is widely used to make plastics, fiberglass, rubber and latex. It is also used to make polystyrene plastics and resins that can be made into foam and rigid plastic products.

Styrene is used in the manufacturing of other products such as tires, hoses, tanks, carpet backing, coatings, paint and metal cleaners. It is used to make resins for construction materials, boats, tubs and shower stalls. Styrene is also used in paper processing, to make dental fillings, and to make resins for various office products, such as photocopier toners and computer printer cartridges.

Cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust contain styrene. Low levels of styrene even occur naturally in some foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beverages and meats.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “The greatest source of exposure to styrene for the general population is cigarette smoking. The exposure from cigarette smoking is about 10 times the level of all other non-industrial sources combined. The styrene exposure of smokers is about six times that of non-smokers.”

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that about 90,000 workers are potentially exposed to styrene. Exposure may irritate the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory system. Skin contact with liquid styrene can cause first-degree burns.

Health effects due to exposure may involve the central nervous system and include complaints of headache, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, malaise, difficulty in concentrating and a feeling of intoxication. Long-term exposure may cause brain disease, liver damage, nerve tissue damage, effects on kidney function, occupational asthma, damage to the central nervous system, impaired hearing, altered color vision and reproductive effects.

Styrene was listed as “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen” in the Thirteenth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program.

These are just a few things to know about styrene and potential exposure concerns at home or in the work environment. To learn more about this or other environmental, indoor air quality, occupational, health or safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.

Clark Seif Clark http://www.csceng.com
EMSL Analytical, Inc. http://www.emsl.com
Indoor Environmental Consultants, Inc. http://www.iecinc.net
LA Testing http://www.latesting.com
Zimmetry Environmental http://www.zimmetry.com
Healthy Indoors Magazine http://www.iaq.net
Hudson Douglas Public Adjusters http://HudsonDouglasPublicAdjusters.com

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