Styrene does not persist in the environment.
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). [Insert footnote] 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:
- American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
- California Environmental Protection Agency
- California EPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)
- California Division of Occupational Safety and Health
- European Risk Assessment Report, Styrene, Draft for publication, June 2008, United Kingdom
- European Chemicals Agency’s Styrene Transitional Report (REACH)
- International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
- National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
- National Research Council
- National Toxicology Program (NTP)
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
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