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Styrene is primarily a synthetic chemical that is used extensively in the manufacture of plastics, rubber, and resins. It is also known as vinylbenzene, ethenylbenzene, cinnamene, or phenylethylene. About 90,000 workers, including those who make boats, tubs, and showers, are potentially exposed to styrene. Health effects from exposure to styrene may involve the central nervous system and include complaints of headache, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, malaise, difficulty in concentrating, and a feeling of intoxication.

OSHA Standards

Exposures to styrene are addressed in specific standards for general industry and construction employment. This section highlights OSHA standards, preambles to final rules (background to final rules), and standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards) related to styrene. Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)

  • 1926 Subpart D, Occupational health and environmental controls
    • 1926.55, Gases, vapors, fumes, dusts, and mists
      • Appendix A, Gases, vapors, fumes, dusts, and mists

Standard Interpretations

Hazard Recognition

Health effects of styrene include irritation of the skin, eyes, and the upper respiratory tract. Acute exposure may also result in gastrointestinal effects. Chronic exposure affects the central nervous system showing symptoms such as depression, headache, fatigue, weakness, and may cause minor effects on kidney function. The following references aid in recognizing occupational hazards and health effects associated with styrene.

  • Styrene. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (1994, May). Provides an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) document that includes acute toxicity data for styrene.

  • Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Styrene. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 83-119, (1983, September). Includes health effects, hazard recognition, and worker protection information for styrene.

  • TOXNET for Styrene. The National Library of Medicine.

  • Report on Carcinogens (RoC). US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Toxicology Program (NTP). Identifies and discusses agents, substances, mixtures, or exposure circumstances that may pose a health hazard due to their carcinogenicity. The listing of substances in the RoC only indicates a potential hazard and does not establish the exposure conditions that would pose cancer risks to individuals.
    • Styrene [331 KB PDF, 9 pages]. NTP classification: Reasonably anticipated to be a humans carcinogen.
  • Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks for Humans [3 MB PDF, 601 pages]. World Health Organization (WHO), International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), (2002). IARC Classification: Possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).
  • ToxFAQs™ for Styrene. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (2012, June). Answers the most frequently asked health questions about styrene.

  • Styrene (CASRN 100-42-5). Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). Discusses the health effects of styrene.

  • Styrene. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lists styrene as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) under the National Emissions Standard Hazardous Air Pollutants section of its Clean Air Act.

  • Consumer Factsheet on: Styrene [165 KB PDF, 3 pages]. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Discusses the effects of styrene in public or private drinking water supplies.

  • Styrene Monomer [74 KB PDF, 6 pages]. New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet, (2011, November). Provides a summary source of information of all potential and most severe health hazards that may result from styrene exposure.

  • Styrene [57 KB PDF, 6 pages]. California Department of Health Services, Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS), (Revised May 1990). Includes information on health effects, testing, and legal exposure limits of styrene.

  • Chronic Toxicology Summary: Styrene [49 KB PDF, 13 pages]. State of California, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). Provides a summary of chronic reference exposure levels adopted by OEHHA.

  • Code of Practice: Styrene [260 KB PDF, 42 pages]. Government of Western Australia, (1996, December). Provides a brief description of short and long term health effects of styrene exposure.

  • International Chemical Safety Cards: Styrene. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (2006, April 4). Summarizes essential health and safety information on styrene for use at the "shop floor" level by workers and employers.

Exposure Evaluation

The following references provide information on evaluating occupational exposures to styrene.

Analytical Methods


OSHA has developed and validated methods for use by the Salt Lake Technical Center Laboratory. The following standard methods have been adopted by many laboratories for the analysis of chemical compounds.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic [134 KB PDF, 7 pages]. Method No. 1501, (2003, March 15). Provides a method for peak, ceiling, and time weighted average determinations of aromatic hydrocarbons.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Possible Solutions

Styrene exposure is best controlled through the use of engineering and work practices. Some operations (e.g., certain open molders using manual techniques) have shown that engineering and work practice controls are not practical for limiting exposure below 100 ppm. For situations where engineering controls are not feasible, additional protection in such as respiratory protection and personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided. The following reference provides possible solutions for styrene hazards in the workplace.

Additional Information

Related Safety and Health Topics Pages

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