Preventing Occupational Exposure Risks to Styrene
The American Board of Industrial Hygiene® (ABIH®) reminds workers and industry of the need to protect employees from exposure to hazardous materials.
Due to these health concerns, exposure limits have been developed to protect workers.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that approximately 90,000 workers are potentially exposed to styrene. Styrene is a type of volatile organic compound (VOC) that is highly flammable and evaporates easily.
Styrene is widely used to make plastics, fiberglass, rubber and latex. It is also used to make polystyrene plastics and resins that can be made into foam and rigid plastic products. Styrene is used in the manufacturing of products such as tires, hoses, tanks, carpet backing, coatings, paint and metal cleaners. It is in resins for construction materials, boats, tubs and shower stalls. Styrene is also used in paper processing, to make dental fillings, and in various office products, such as photocopier toners and computer printer cartridges.
Workers in industries that use styrene can be exposed to it in the air or through skin contact with liquid styrene which can cause first-degree burns. According to OSHA, 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. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that long-term exposure may cause brain disease, liver damage, nerve tissue damage, effects on kidney function, occupational asthma, damage to the central nervous system, impaired hearing, altered color vision and reproductive effects. Styrene was listed as “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen” in the Thirteenth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program.
“Due to these health concerns, exposure limits have been developed to protect workers,” said Susan Ripple, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “Air testing, engineering controls and work practices along with personal protective equipment are instrumental for mitigating these exposure risks.”
Certified Industrial Hygienists are uniquely qualified to monitor exposure risks and implement workplace health and safety programs to protect workers and keep companies in regulatory compliance. CIHs are trained in risks assessments; air sampling and instrumentational analysis; chemical and biohazards; engineering controls and ventilation; health risk analysis and hazard communication; and work environments and industrial processes. This knowledge and the proper use of personal protective equipment can be instrumental in reducing exposure risks to styrene and a wide range of other potential workplace hazards.
To learn more about the American Board of Industrial Hygiene®, Certified Industrial Hygienist® credential or to locate a CIH® to perform industrial hygiene services, please visit www.ABIH.org, email abih@ABIH.org or call (517) 321-2638.
About the American Board of Industrial Hygiene ®
Since 1960, ABIH®, a not-for-profit corporation, has been the world’s largest organization for certifying professionals in the practice of industrial hygiene. ABIH® is the premier credentialing body responsible for ensuring high-quality certification including education, experience, examination, certification maintenance and ethics enforcement. Currently, more than 6800 people in 32 countries are certified to use the CIH® designation.
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