The natural photo-oxidation of styrene in the atmosphere results in its complete decomposition to carbon dioxide and water within approximately 24 hours. Transport of styrene through the air for appreciable distances (or its potential entry into water and soil) is unlikely in significant amounts from point-source emissions to the atmosphere (e.g., manufacturing facility emissions).

In a SIRC-sponsored study, Dr. Martin Alexander of Cornell University demonstrated that styrene rapidly breaks down (within twelve hours) to carbon dioxide and water under aerobic conditions in soil or water (Alexander 1997). [1] The potential for anaerobic biodegradation exists, but the few data available on anaerobic biodegradation suggest that the compound may persist somewhat longer in subsoils, anoxic aquifers, septic tanks, or sludge.

With the exception of infrequent situations, such as a spill following a transportation incident, measured environmental concentrations of styrene in the air, water and soil are too low to cause effects on mammals, non-mammals, or microorganisms. Styrene’s atmospheric reactivity and biodegradability keep exposure levels below that required for toxicity; the compound’s properties make bioconcentration at harmful levels unlikely.


Other Sources of Environmental Health Information:

These are external links, and will open in a new browser window.



SIRC cannot attest to the accuracy of information provided by any other linked site.

Providing links to a non-SIRC website does not constitute an endorsement of the sponsors of the site, or the information or products presented on the site, by SIRC or any of its employees.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Alexander, M., “Environmental Fate and Effects of Styrene,” Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, v. 27, issue 4, pp. 383-410, 1997, doi:10.1080/10643389709388504; http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10643389709388504#.UmcV8XCsh8E.