The National Toxicology Program (NTP) released the 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC) just over a year ago on June 10, 2011, with styrene listed as a “reasonably anticipated” carcinogen. In a press conference held to announce release of the report, the NTP staff carefully acknowledged that they were uncertain anyone is actually at risk of cancer, but encouraged Americans to be aware of the listings. The release of the RoC generated ample media coverage, including on the front page of the New York Times.

Americans are now aware of the styrene RoC listing, and with this awareness the industry is seeing the predictable consequences. Many trial attorney websites now feature “styrene toxic tort” as major practice areas. Business owners report significant increases in cost for liability and workers compensation insurance policies, while other plant managers report increased turnover among new workers. Many company owners, unsure how this will impact the long term public perception and regulatory environment, are delaying plant and employment expansion.

Americans will continue to need styrenebased composite products; for example, underground gasoline storage tanks to protect the environment, wind turbine blades and nacelles to reduce dependence on foreign oil, bridge beams and rebar to decrease costs and increase sustainability of infrastructure and ballistic panels to protect our troops. But the question is: where will the products be made? ACMA believes the fear about styrene caused by the RoC is unwarranted and will potentially move composites manufacturing and the associated jobs to other countries.

Advocacy efforts

Immediately after the release of the 12th RoC, ACMA and its industry partners shifted from trying to prevent a poorly informed classification to working to limit the damage and, ultimately, have it repealed. The styrene industry group SIRC filed suit in federal court, seeking to have the RoC styrene listing overturned, claiming that Secretary Sebelius’ actions were “arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.” SIRC argued that in making her listing decision, the Secretary relied on internal memoranda that misstated, mischaracterized and omitted information that was relevant to the Secretary’s decision; that the NTP did not follow its own procedures in recommending that the Secretary list styrene in the RoC; and that the listing criteria applied by the Secretary and NTP to styrene are contrary to law because they allow for the listing of a substance based on mere suspicion or the possibility that the substance is a human carcinogen; finally, that these standards are contrary to the statutory direction of Congress.