AUG 2018


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NEWS 33 Styrene Reduction Update highest-volume segments of the plastics and composites industries. Styrene is the subject of divided opinion. Its odor is unpleasant, and many health organi- zations recognize that chronic, unprotected exposure to relatively high levels of styrene can lead to health issues, ranging from headaches, fatigue/weakness, depression and respiratory and gastrointestinal irritation to hearing loss, kidney damage and even death at extremely high exposure levels (see Learn More, p. 38). Critics, however, contend there is no solid evidence that properly protected workers in the manufacturing environment, let alone consumers in proximity to products made with styrene, will suffer harm from styrene exposure. Interestingly, styrene naturally occurs in a variety of common foodstuffs and in a major tree genus (see the Side Story on p. 34). A significant example of regulation with potential economic impact is a European Union (EU) legislative package passed in December 2006 that is beginning to phase in now. Designed to reduce exposure to many chemi- cals, including styrene, the Registration, Evalu- ation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemi- cals (REACH) regulations are described by the European Chemicals agency as "improving human health and the environment from the risks posed by chemicals while enhancing the competitiveness of the European chemical industry." Many composites supply-chain members with business in both the EU and North America are watching REACH carefully, unsure how it will affect their own businesses or that of their European customers. "In the EU, styrene is classified as a developmental toxicant, and an occupational exposure limit of 20 ppm for an 8-hour average is recommended," notes John Schweitzer, senior manager with the American Composites Manufacturers Assn. (ACMA, Arlington, VA, US). "e same data available to the EU was reviewed in 2006 by US regulators, who concluded that styrene presents 'negli- gible concern for adverse developmental or reproductive effects.' Accordingly, any impact of EU regulations on US manufacturers is not driven by regulatory or health concerns." In the US, the Styrene Information & Research Center (SIRC, Washington, DC, US) reports that legislation and regulation Styrene monomer: Important industrial role Styrene monomer is a very important reactive diluent for thermoset resin suppliers and compounders that work with vinyl ester and unsaturated polyester. And (poly)styrene polymer is used in many thermoplastic resins. Properly called ethenylbenzene, styrene monomer also is used in many commonly available commercial products (listed in the graphic). Interestingly, styrene is naturally found in a wide range of foodstuffs as well as a major genus of trees. Source | Styrene Information & Research Center related to styrene and governing its manufacture, sale, transpor- tation, use and disposal can and do vary between federal and state levels and from state-to-state. (A nonprofit organization with membership that comprises 95% of the North American styrene industry, SIRC describes itself as the leader in ongoing research, setting guidelines and advocating for science-based regulatory treatment of the chemical as necessary. SIRC says it has conducted more than US$20 million of research over the past 30 years to better understand styrene's potential impact on both health and the environment.) Groups like ACMA and SIRC have established what they call common-sense guidelines for

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