Session Tackles Styrene Issue From Multiple Angles

A report sits on the desk of Depart­ment of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and her decision about it will send ripple effects throughout the composites industry.

The report is about styrene, a topic that was questioned, explained, dissected and vilified perhaps more than any other at COMPOSITES 2011. In various education sessions, technical papers and water-cooler conversations in Fort Lauderdale, composites industry members are essentially trying to do two things—(1) make sure Sebelius, her staff, lawmakers, lobbyists and other public officials become as educated as possible about styrene data, and (2) prepare communication that will proactively soothe potential backlash from employees and the public.

The education session “Styrene Cancer Assessment: Science, Policy, Communications and Management” tackled the issue from multiple angles. It provided updates on new science regarding the carcinogenic potential of styrene, as well as the status of the ongoing industry efforts to encourage use of good science and sound policy.

Details from the Educational Session

George Cruzan, Ph.D., of ToxWorks presented a recap of a wide range of recent human and animal (rat and mice) studies that find little or no statistically significant evidence that styrene exposure causes cancer in humans.

Multiple organizations across the globe, including the European Union and a renowned epidemiol­ogy panel, have concluded that styrene-induced mouse lung tumors are not relevant to human risk assessment. “Those determinations unfortunately contradict what the NTP seems bent on believing and publishing,” Cruzan said. He explained several material flaws in the NTP review process, including lack of full consideration of the data, lack of peer review of critical findings by NTP’s styrene panel and lack of timely consideration of scientific input from the styrene industry.

John Schweitzer, senior director of government affairs for ACMA spoke about ACMA’s current advocacy efforts. The association’s Risk Communications Program can help industry members reassure employees and plant neighbors regarding styrene health risk.