Composites group warns Congress on styrene designation

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Two composites executives from American Composites Manufacturers Association member companies were among those who told Congress this week that small manufacturing companies could suffer because of styrene’s inclusion in the 12th Report on Carcinogens.

The executives said hundreds of thousands of jobs could be at risk unless the “federal government restores its reliance on credible science in the risk assessment process and reverses the listing of the industrial chemical styrene as a ‘reasonably anticipated’ carcinogen in the National Toxicology Program’s 2011 Report on Carcinogens.”

Styrene, used in the building of fiberglass boats, is listed as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen, based on limited evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans, sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals, and supporting data on mechanisms of carcinogenesis.”

It was one of eight new substances listed in the 12th Report on Carcinogens, released last June by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, despite objections by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and a coalition of groups that say there is not enough scientific evidence to support the listing.

“The listing of styrene in the RoC is of significant concern,” John Barker, environmental health and safety manager for Strongwell Corp., told a joint hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight and the House Committee on Small Business’ Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology.

“For one thing, the idea of ‘reasonably anticipated’ has caused great confusion for our employees, their families and members of the community,” he said. “People are believing the flawed science used in the assessment of styrene and it makes it difficult to maintain an open and fair relationship with the community.”

Bonnie Webster, vice president of Monroe Industries, told lawmakers the listing has had an impact on access to liability coverage.

“Currently there is only one company that will insure us,” she said. “Should we be dropped by that company, like many other composites companies whose coverage has been terminated by their long-term carriers, it will be impossible for us to continue to make an affordable product.”

Both Barker and Webster noted that styrene has been used safely and responsibly for more than six decades. They called on Congress to oversee a thorough assessment of the report and to ensure that its future listings are evidence-based, provide accurate information and reflect the highest scientific standards.

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