Styrene & the Environment

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 12 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.


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