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                                                                                                             National Institute of Environmental
                                                                                                             Health Sciences NIH-HHS

                                                                                                        What evidence is there that styrene causes cancer?
                                             Report on Carcinogens Status
         Key Points                          Reasonably anticipated to be
                                                                                                        Human Studies
                                                                                                        The limited evidence for cancer from styrene in
                                             a human carcinogen                                         humans is from occupational studies showing
                                                                                                        increased risks for lymphohematopoietic cancers,
                                           What is styrene?                                             such as leukemia and lymphoma, and genetic
                                           Styrene is a colorless, flammable liquid, which has a        damage in the white blood cells, or lymphocytes,
                                           sweet odor and is highly volatile. It is an industrial       of workers exposed to styrene. There is also
                                           chemical used to make polystyrene and resins,                some evidence for increased risk of cancer in
                                           such as reinforced plastic and rubbers.                      the pancreas or esophagus among some
                                           How is styrene used?                                         styrene workers, but the evidence is weaker
                                                                                                        than that for lymphohematopoietic cancers.
                                           Styrene is widely used to make plastics and rubber,
                                           which are used to manufacture a variety of products,         Animal Studies
                                           such as insulation, pipes, automobile parts, printing        Styrene caused lung tumors in several strains of mice.
                                           cartridges, food containers, and carpet backing.             Mechanistic Studies
                                                                                                        Exactly how styrene causes cancer is not fully
                                           How are people exposed to styrene?
                                                                                                        understood, but styrene is converted, in laboratory
                                           People are exposed to styrene in the workplace
                                                                                                        animals and humans, to styrene–7,8–oxide, which
                                           and in the environment.
                                                                                                        is listed in the Report on Carcinogens as reasonably
                                           Workers in certain occupations are potentially               anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Styrene-7,8-
                                           exposed to much higher levels of styrene than                oxide causes genetic damage and has been found
                                           the general population. For example, workers who             in the blood of workers exposed to styrene.
                                           fabricate boats, car and truck parts, tanks, and bath
                                                                                                        What are some things I can do to prevent
                                           tubs and shower stalls with glass fiber-reinforced
                                                                                                        exposure to styrene?
              Styrene                      polyester composite plastics, may breathe in high
                                           levels of styrene in the workplace. Workers may also         • Stop smoking. Styrene is found in tobacco smoke.
                                           absorb styrene through the skin. Exposures in the            • Limit children’s exposure to tobacco smoke.
       n      Reasonably                                                                                • Adhere to federal government regulations.
                                           workplace have decreased over time.
              anticipated to
              be a carcinogen              People may be exposed to styrene through breathing           Workers and employers should practice good
                                           indoor air that has styrene vapors from building             occupational health behaviors. This may include
       n      Widely used to               materials, photocopiers, tobacco smoke, and                  wearing protective clothing, respirators, and gloves.
              make plastics                other products.                                              Work places should be well ventilated.
              and rubber
                                           Smokers are exposed to styrene because it occurs             Where do I go for more information?
       n      Found in                     in cigarette smoke.                                          National Toxicology Program
              tobacco smoke                Living near industrial facilities or hazardous waste sites
                                           is another way people may be exposed to styrene.             Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
                                           Styrene may also leach from polystyrene containers 
                                           used for food products, but levels of styrene are            toxsubstance.asp?toxid=74
                                           very low.                                                    National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
                                                                                                        Occupational Safety and Health Administration

                  The Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition, is prepared by the National Toxicology Program, an interagency group coordinated
                  by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report identifies agents, substances, mixtures, or exposures in two
       2011       categories: known to be a human carcinogen and reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. The full Report on Carcinogens
                  is available at

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   Printed on recycled paper   June 2011

Description: the chemical messenger responsible for coordinated muscle movement. Although 5 to 10 percent of patients are diagnosed before age 50, Parkinson’s disease generally occurs in older adults. Incidence of the disease increases with age, affecting one of every 100 persons over the age of 60. More than 1 million people in North America suffer from Parkinson’s disease, with approximately 50,000 new cases reported each year. Actor Michael J. Fox, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, and Pope John Paul II are some well-known people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease