Jack Snyder is the executive director of the Styrene Information and Research Center (SIRC). SIRC was formed in 1987, and is primarily made up of petrochemical companies that produce styrene, as well as some downstream groups such as composites. SIRC researches the science of styrene and provides this evidence in regulatory matters. Current issues include the National Toxicology Program (NTP) proposed listing of styrene as a carcinogen as well as styrene regulations within California.

Why was SIRC formed?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was looking to do some fundamental styrene research studies in mice and rats; however, they decided to let SIRC do them instead because they didn’t have the funding and SIRC volunteered for the task. Those were our initial research projects. Since then, there has been a great deal added to the research we do and we have spent almost $20 million on research. The main focus of our research until now has been from a science perspective, but we have always monitored regulations from EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in regard to styrene, as well as what’s done in the states, particularly California, since they operate on their own.

What is SIRC’s mission?

We go to bat for styrene in instances where we think an agency isn’t basing their proposed regulations on sound science, and have been successful in getting them to correct things where they weren’t doing an appropriate assessment. Right now, we’re dealing with the NTP program and California in their attempts to list us under Prop 65, which was created to keep toxic substances that cause cancer and birth defects out of consumer products, as a known carcinogen. These issues are ratcheting up, thus the research is slowing down and we’re more proactive to address significant errors in the science being handled by various agencies.

What errors do you see?

In the NTP program, they’ve proposed to list styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” The primary problem with that classification is that the NTP doesn’t have a comprehensive classification scheme for chemicals, and they find any reason they can to meet the bar of the bottom classification (reasonably anticipated) to the exclusion of looking at the full body of data and doing a balanced assessment. There are studies that show effects of styrene in mice, but we have produced effective data to show these effects are not related to humans.