UpdateUS styrene group vows to fight federal carcinogen ruling

10 June 2011 19:57  [Source: ICIS news]

(adds updates throughout)

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US styrene industry on Friday said it would vigorously contest a ruling by federal health regulators linking styrene to human cancer, charging that the “scientifically bankrupt” decision threatens US jobs and businesses.

Jack Snyder, executive director of the Styrene Information and Research Center (SRIC), charged that the cancer-related styrene listing by the Department of Human Health and Services (HHS) was “completely unjustified by the latest science and resulted from a flawed process”.

He said the styrene group already has filed legal notice with the department that it would seek a court injunction against the cancer-link decision.

Earlier on Friday, the department issued its long-expected 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC) in which styrene was characterised as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”.

The department said that its decision to name styrene as a likely carcinogen was made on the basis of “human cancer studies, laboratory animal studies, and mechanistic scientific information”.

In a statement about the decision, HHS said that while there was only “limited evidence of cancer from studies in humans”, the cancer-related characterisation of styrene was necessary to reduce exposure to carcinogenic agents in the environment.

But Snyder blasted the department’s ruling, charging that the listing was contrary to a wealth of other scientific data and resulted from a flawed process “that focused on only those data that support a cancer concern ... and ignored the preponderance of data that fail to suggest a cancer concern for styrene”.

He accused the department of prejudicial research, charging that HHS “came to a scientifically unsupportable and possibly pre-ordained conclusion” to list styrene as a likely carcinogen.

In contrast, Snyder said that EU regulators have determined that styrene does not pose a human cancer risk, saying that “EU scientists reviewed the full styrene database, weighing all of the available data in reaching their conclusion”.

Snyder cited research published in peer-reviewed journals showing that “available evidence does not support a causal relationship between styrene exposure and any type of human cancer”.

He noted that while the HHS classification of styrene as an “anticipated carcinogen” does not establish that the substance actually poses a health risk to people in their daily lives, the decision likely would be broadly misinterpreted by the public and news media.

“What this scientifically bankrupt decision does mean, unfortunately, is that some 750,000 good jobs at more than 3,000 small- and medium-sized US manufacturing facilities across the country are put at risk for no valid reason,” Snyder said.

The US produced 4m tonnes of styrene in 2009, the last year for which such data was available, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

A SRIC spokesman said that the group would seek court action to overturn the department’s ruling.

The department's action on styrene also was protested by more than 60 members of Congress.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy


By: Joe Kamalick
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