Here are five points on styrenics:
Styrene is primarily used in production of polystyrene plastics and resins. It is a colourless liquid with a sweet smell. Acute (short-term) exposure to styrene in humans results in mucous membrane and eye irritation, and gastrointestinal effects, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Several epidemiologic studies suggest there may be an association between styrene exposure and an increased risk of leukaemia and lymphoma. However, the evidence is inconclusive due to multiple chemical exposures and inadequate information on the levels and duration of exposure, the EPA says.
Chronic (long-term) exposure to styrene in humans results in effects on the central nervous system, such as headache, fatigue, weakness and depression, central nervous system dysfunction and hearing loss.
Polystyrene is a versatile plastic used to make a wide variety of consumer products. As a hard, solid plastic, it is often used in products that require clarity, such as food packaging and laboratory ware, according to Chemical Safety Facts.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strictly regulates all food packaging materials, including polystyrene. The FDA's data shows exposures to styrene from the use of polystyrene food packaging products remain extremely low, more than 10,000 times below the safety limit set by FDA.