Plastics component styrene is ‘probably carcinogenic’, according to WHO-IARC


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Styrene is a key component for many plastics, particularly polystyrene. Globally, manufacturers produce about 20m tonnes of styrene a year.

According to the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (Iarc), styrene is now classified to group 2A of 'probably carcinogenic' based on limited evidence in humans and sufficient evidence in experimental animals for carcinogenicity. It previously had group 2B classification ("possibly carcinogenic to humans"), based on a 2002 monograph.

This classification could have immediate implications, wherever local chemicals legislation incorporates Iarc classifications as regulatory 'triggers', for example in California, reminded by Chemical Watch.

Please refer to the Lancet document for more details.

(IARC Monographs Vol 121 Group (2018) Carcinogenicity of quinoline, styrene, and styrene-7,8-oxide.

The Lancet. Oncology (18)30316-4)