Issue Date: August 24, 2009
Styrene Avoids Injurious Label
A California Superior Court judge in Sacramento has tentatively ruled that state environmental officials may not add styrene to the state’s list of chemicals that threaten human health. Adding styrene to the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity “could have a devastating effect on that product’s use,” Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang said in her Aug. 12 ruling. Styrene is widely used in food packaging, consumer electronics, and many other products. Chang ordered the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment not to proceed with its plan to list the chemical as a cancer-causing agent under Prop 65. The office proposed adding styrene to the list in June, citing a finding by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that styrene is “probably carcinogenic to humans” (C&EN, June 22, page 28). Jack Snyder, executive director of the Styrene Information & Research Center, the industry group that filed the suit, says that styrene is not a human carcinogen and that placing it on the list would stigmatize the chemical and cause irreparable harm to the industry. “Proposition 65 was intended to be a science-based list of known carcinogens, not a list of suspect chemicals,” Snyder says. The court will next hear arguments on whether the state should be permanently enjoined from listing styrene under Prop 65.
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