Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What is styrene?

Styrene, also known as vinylbenzene, is a clear, colorless to yellow, oily liquid that has a sweet odor at low concentrations. It is used in the manufacture of plastics, paints, synthetic rubbers, protective coatings and resins.

What are the hazards associated with styrene?

Health effects resulting from exposure to styrene are associated with the level and duration of exposure. Acute (high) exposures to styrene may result in respiratory effects, such as mucous membrane irritation, eye irritation and gastrointestinal effects. Chronic exposure to styrene may affect the central nervous system (CNS), with symptoms such as headache, fatigue, weakness, depression and CNS dysfunction.

Styrene has been tested for its potential to cause cancer in humans. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) has classified styrene as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has given styrene a classification of 2B (Possibly Carcinogenic in Humans). 

Physical hazards attributed to styrene monomer are principally associated with its flammability. Styrene monomer is classified as a Category 3 flammable liquid.



What can I do to protect myself?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used to prevent or minimize exposure. Gloves, eye protection and other PPE may be necessary to prevent skin contact. Additionally, respiratory protection may be needed if exposure levels exceed the limits set in standard.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Safety and Health Programs

Example programs applicable to occupational exposure to beryllium and can be customized to fit individual workplaces include hazard communication program, respiratory protection program and PPE hazard assessment.

Training and Outreach Services

Presentations that may also assist the employer with their training requirements include hazard communication, respiratory protection and personal protective equipment

The education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. In addition, the following pre-recorded webinars are also available to assist with training; respiratory protection and hazard communication

Further, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).

A-Z Safety and Health Topics

Related resources can be found on the A-Z topics pages for respiratory protection, hazard communication, and personal protective equipment

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.



Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to styrene in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

General industry

Maritime, Shipyard Employment


Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

Industry Guides

Technical Assistance

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to or by calling 919-707-7876.