Styrene

Styrene

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.

Solutions

Solutions

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?

Related resources can be found on the A-Z topics pages for respiratory protection, hazard communication, and personal protective equipment. In addition, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). 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.

Regulations

Regulations

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards in North Carolina that apply to styrene:

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

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 ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-807-2875.