Efforts to block the designation of styrene as a possible cancer-causing agent are proceeding on several fronts while organizations who use styrene in the manufacture of their products consider short- and long-term effects should they ultimately be forced to find a substitute for styrene.
At issue is the announcement on June 10 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that added styrene to the latest HHS National Toxicology Program (NTP) Report on Carcinogens (RoC) identifying chemicals and biological agents that potentially put people at risk for cancer. The report categorized styrene as a “reasonably anticipated carcinogen,” meaning that the substance has not been found to cause cancer, but there is reason to believe that it might cause cancer.
Styrene is a primary ingredient used to manufacture the thermoset resins used in cured-in-place-pipe (CIPP) sewer rehabilitation.
NASSCO (National Association of Sewer Service Companies) represents the interests of the sewer rehabilitation industry. NASSCO supports the efforts of the Styrene Information and Research Center (SIRC) which has filed a lawsuit challenging the designation of styrene as a possible carcinogen, along with other trade associations representing a host of industries that use styrene in the manufacturer of consumer, commercial and industrial products.
The primary issue raised by those opposing the designation is that the science behind the decision to name styrene a possible carcinogen is flawed and that there is, in fact, no proven link between styrene and cancer in humans and animals.
“It is important to stress that the ‘reasonably anticipated carcinogen’ category requires no proof that the substance is dangerous at any concentration higher than normal industry defined threshold levels,” said Ted DeBoda, P.E., NASSCO executive director. “The use of styrenated resins in the CIPP rehabilitation industry continues to employee thousands and provide a safe, valuable infrastructure rehabilitation tool for municipalities throughout the country,” he explained.
At press time:
• SIRC’s lawsuit is proceeding in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia;
• Industry associations are keeping their members advised of efforts to overturn the styrene/carcinogen designation;
• Advocacy efforts include discussion to involve Congress in the disputed RoC designation; and
• Investigation continues as to how the RoC styrene designation could affect hazardous material labeling.
Following denial on July 5 of a SIRC motion for a preliminary injunction ordering the HHS to withdraw publication of the RoC report as it related to styrene, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton requested both parties establish a schedule to litigate SIRC’s claim that styrene should be removed from the RoC.
SIRC contends that styrene’s inclusion is unjustified by the latest science and resulted from a flawed process that focused on only data that support a cancer concern, and effectively ignored the preponderance of data that failed to suggest a cancer concern for styrene.
“NASSCO was disappointed in the recent ruling that failed to grant a preliminary injunction on the HHS’ listing of styrene in the Report on Carcinogens,” commented DeBoda. “We believe the ambiguous correlations used in the study combined with a lack of scientific evidence easily justified the injunction. We continue to support SIRC and American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) in this initiative as the case moves towards summary judgment.”
The “Newsroom” on SIRC’s web site (www.styrene.org) is updated regularly with the latest legal documents that pertain to this case.
The industry coalition opposing the RoC styrene listing continues to press its case through congressional advocacy in support of a National Academy of Sciences review of the HHS styrene evaluation and congressional oversight for the NTP National process that led to the recommendation that styrene be listed in the RoC.
SIRC Executive Director Jack Snyder has advised members that following numerous meetings with Congressional staff, in particular for members on Oversight and Appropriations committees, there appears to be support for attaching language in upcoming appropriations bills for the funding of a National Academy of Sciences review of styrene relative to the NTP listing and that there has been support for convening an oversight hearing on the RoC program, relative to the process deficiencies and irregularities that emerged from the styrene assessment.
Trade associations of industries dependent on styrene are busy disseminating information about the 12th RoC’s inclusion of styrene, what it could mean to their members, and keeping them updated about development in the case. For example, the American Composites Manufacturers Association has conducted a webinar explaining the content of the RoC pertaining to styrene, possible impact on the industry, clarifying the facts about styrene and cancer, and ACMA plans for opposing the designation and helping its members. There is a tool kit available on the ACMA web site (www.acmanet.org) to assist employers in educating employees.
SIRC’s “You Know Styrene” website will present user-friendly information about benefits and health effects of styrene in an accessible, non-technical format.
Possible labeling changes
If the “reasonably anticipated carcinogen” designation stands, will that affect labeling of products containing styrene?
SIRC’s Snyder has advised the organization’s members and associates that historically, National Toxicology Program (NTP) carcinogen listings triggered 90-day compliance for Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communications requirements for recording NTP listings on material safety data sheets (MSDSs).
He said determination of current compliance requirements is confusing due to the pending implementation by OSHA of the Global Harmonization System, which will eliminate the NTP listing requirement, as well as a current stay on the automatic 90-day trigger. OSHA recently has not been strictly enforcing the 90-day compliance requirement. A conservative interpretation of OSHA Haz Comm implications would be for 90-day compliance by revising MSDS by Sept. 10, 2011, based on the June 10 Report on Carcinogens release date.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
NASSCO, (410) 486-3500, www.nassco.org