InterviewMarkets fear CMR health ruling for Europe styrene

28 October 2011 17:15  [Source: ICIS news]

By Andy Brice

LONDON (ICIS)--Styrene players are anxiously awaiting the response to proposals to give the monomer CMR (Carcinogenic, Mutagenic, Reprotoxic) 1b status in Europe, a company executive of a major composites producer said on Friday.

A proposal for Harmonised Classification and Labelling has been made public in the past few weeks outlining plans by the Danish competent authorities for styrene’s reclassification.

The move is already causing widespread concern and is likely to heap further pressure on users in the region, according to Wilfrid Gambade, business director of Netherlands-headquartered health, nutrition and materials company DSM Composite Resins.

Denmark and Sweden are pushing for styrene to be awarded CMR 1b status in Europe. They have now submitted their arguments to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), having started working on the report in December 2010.

Gambade said that DSM was hoping to share its views on the move by the middle of November.

The use of styrene is coming under scrutiny in Europe just months after the aromatic was included among eight new substances on a revised list of possible cancer-causing chemicals by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The 12th Report on Carcinogens was published on June 10 and listed styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogenic”. The report claims that users may suffer health problems after prolonged exposure by inhalation.

There are already recommendations from the Styrene Reach Consortium regarding styrene and the maximum level of exposure.

In Europe, the Derived No Effect Levels – or DNEL - guidance says that 20 parts per million (ppm) should be the limit for those working around styrene.

This exposure level was decided by styrene consortia on the basis of sound scientific evidence, although the implementation varies throughout the region, according to Gambade. In the UK, for example, the government has set a generous threshold of 100ppm whereas other countries argue that it should be below 20ppm.

Styrene is derived from benzene and ethane and is used in a range of plastics and synthetic rubbers. End-use markets include automotive, food and construction.

It is still too early to determine whether demand for the aromatic has been adversely affected by its inclusion in the US report but it has clearly increased uncertainty and fear in the composites sector, said Gambade.

Styrene's new status sent shockwaves through the market and has seen many US chemical organisations rally together to fight the ruling. Gambade pointed out, however, that inclusion on the list is rarely overturned.

For more on styrene visit ICIS chemical intelligence

By: Andy Brice
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