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Congressmen urge delay in labeling styrene as a carcinogen

Sixty-three members of the U.S. House of Representatives have asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to delay a proposed listing of styrene in her department’s impending Report on Carcinogens until a “thorough review can be conducted that weighs the full body of scientific evidence available to decision makers,” the Styrene Information and Research Center reported.

The research center leads a styrene industry coalition that includes the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The group has vigorously protested the Report on Carcinogens listing with federal officials since it was proposed three years ago. Other coalition members are the American Composites Manufacturers Association and the Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group of the American Chemistry Council.

Styrene is classified as a volatile organic compound, and styrene emissions are produced during the manufacture of fiberglass products.

The request came in the form of a bipartisan letter to Sebelius co-sponsored by Reps. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., and Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

Deficiencies alleged in the letter, signed by 47 Republicans and 16 Democrats, include a lack of proper peer review and response to public comments, failure to inform agency review panels of critical scientific controversies, and failure to consider all relevant scientific information.

The National Toxicology Program proposed in 2008 to list styrene in its next Report on Carcinogens as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” despite the fact that European Union regulators, a panel of internationally recognized epidemiologists and a Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study have determined that styrene does not represent a human cancer concern, according to the research center.

The House members wrote: “The production of styrene and styrene-based products accounts for up to 750,000 jobs across the nation in virtually every state and congressional district. … If the NTP’s 12th RoC goes forward as drafted, thousands of Americans working in the styrene-based products industry will face job uncertainty, and potentially even job loss. NTP’s disclaimer that it has no opinion about actual health risk regarding the substances listed in the RoC will almost certainly not counteract the plain language meaning of the phrase ‘reasonably anticipated carcinogen.’ ”

Styrene-based materials, including polystyrene, ABS, styrene-butadiene rubber, styrene-butadiene latex and styrene composites are used to make a variety of products.

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