US styrene group, members of Congress seek to delay report

17 May 2011 23:38  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Members of the US Congress have asked federal health officials to delay a report that would label styrene as a likely human carcinogen, industry officials said on Tuesday, warning that such a determination could cripple a significant segment of US manufacturing.

An alliance of trade groups representing styrene producers and manufacturers dependent on styrene said that 63 House members signed a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), urging postponement of the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) 12th “Report on Carcinogens” (RoC).

Since 1980, the NTP has issued a report every two to four years on known or likely carcinogens. Its last RoC was issued in 2005, and the pending 12th RoC was supposed to be issued in 2008. That year's draft report is said to be ready for final publication.

Each report lists substances that consumers are exposed to that are known to be linked to cancer or that “may reasonably be anticipated to be human carcinogens”.

Among other findings, the new report is said to determine that styrene and its derivatives are “reasonably anticipated to be carcinogenic”.

But the styrene industry alliance, known as Styrene Information and Research Center (SIRC), has argued since 2008 that the NTP’s study is flawed and deficient.

Those charges were reflected in the letter from members of Congress to Kathleen Sebelius, the US Health and Human Services Secretary, along with warnings of potentially major job losses if styrene is branded as a likely carcinogen.

“We believe that the [RoC] draft runs a strong risk of furthering job uncertainty and confusion across a broad sector of American manufacturing,” the 47 Republican and 16 Democrat representatives said.

“We respectfully ask that you delay issuing the styrene assessment until a thorough review can be conducted that weighs the full body of scientific evidence available,” the letter said.

The representatives charged that the NTP’s styrene study lacked proper scientific peer review, failed to respond adequately to public comments and did not consider all relevant scientific data.

They also cited earlier studies by EU scientists who found that styrene was not likely to cause cancer in humans.

The letter said that as many as 775,000 Americans work in styrene production or in the manufacture of styrene-based products, warning that those jobs would be at risk if the NTP labels styrene as a likely carcinogen.

The draft report carries a disclaimer by the NTP that it has no opinion about actual health risks posed by any of the substances listed in the pending report.

“But this will almost certainly not counteract the plain language meaning of the phrase ‘reasonably anticipated carcinogen',” the members of Congress said.

Joe Walker, spokesman for the styrene alliance, said that the NTP report might be issued within weeks if the delay appeal is not successful.

If styrene is labelled as a likely carcinogen, Walker said the group “is considering a number of options”.

Included among those options is a formal request for review of the NTP study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). In addition, Walker said, “legal action certainly has been discussed”.

The styrene alliance includes the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the American Composites Manufacturing Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

By: Joe Kamalick
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