The styrene industry is proactive when it comes to worker safety and offers guidance on exposure limits for workplace settings. An updated risk assessment of styrene was completed in 2019, confirming styrene’s safety for the general population and adding to the body of knowledge on potential health effects in workplace exposures. Learn more at styrene.org.
Working with Styrene in a Manufacturing Facility
The possible health effects of styrene for workers in facilities that make or use styrene depend on their exposures.
Facilities that manufacture or use styrene employ safety features to protect workers’ health and limit exposures. In the composites industry, for example, these precautions may include enclosures around work processes, closed processing areas, advanced ventilation systems, personal protective gear, and monitoring equipment.
Additionally, workplace exposure levels have declined significantly across the industry since the late 1990s as the result of improved safety practices. For more information about government regulations and policy-making efforts, visit styrene.org.
A substantial body of scientific evidence on human health, primarily gathered in occupational settings, indicates the nervous system is the most sensitive target of chronic styrene exposure. The concerns for adverse health effects are most specifically on impacts to hearing and color vision. Noise can be a compounding factor, so noise reduction measures should be in place if noise levels are above 85 decibels and the occupational exposure is more than 20 ppm, 8-hour time-weighted average.
There are no strong or consistent indications that styrene causes any form of cancer in humans. Although some studies suggest that styrene-exposed workers may be at increased cancer risk, the human evidence for styrene carcinogenicity is inconclusive. More information about the comprehensive research conducted on styrene and health effects is available from the Styrene Information & Research Center.
In the United States, and in most industrialized countries, occupational regulations protect worker health. The industry’s ongoing voluntary efforts help to ensure workers are protected from the possible effects of styrene exposure, such as drowsiness or eye irritation.
Current OSHA Standard
In the 1980s, OSHA established a styrene workplace exposure limit of 100 ppm — a regulation that is still in place today.
Voluntary Initiative: 1992
In the 1990s, SIRC evaluated data on the effects of styrene exposure on the nervous system (neurotoxicity) and led an industry initiative endorsing a workplace exposure limit of 50 ppm.
Voluntary Initiative: 2011
Industry studies examined potential neurotoxic effects that may occur below 50 ppm, leading styrene producers to voluntarily recommend in 2011 that workday styrene exposure be limited to 20 ppm.
Download a printable fact sheet on workplace exposure recommendations.
Safety and Handling
For information on handling a chemical spill or emergency related to styrene, contact CHEMTREC. CHEMTREC serves as a round-the-clock resource for obtaining immediate emergency response information for accidental chemical releases.
Did you know?
Styrene-based materials are enhancing motoring safety worldwide, including composites used to build bridge components that last longer, road safety barriers that transmit energy away from the source of impact, and rubber for tires with a better grip on pavement, wet or dry.