CIPP Industry Defends Styrene Use

Fed Dept. Seeks To Label Styrene As ‘Reasonably Anticipated Carcinogen’
By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | May 2011, Vol. 66 No. 5
Styrene. Image: Bill Abbott.

Organizations in the cured-in-place-pipe (CIPP) industry are seriously concerned about a recommendation before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to designate styrene as a “reasonably anticipated carcinogen,” implying that it could be a cause of cancer in humans.

Styrene is a primary ingredient used to manufacture the thermoset resins used in cured-in-place-pipe sewer rehabilitation.

“Designating styrene a reasonably anticipated carcinogen would have severe impact on the CIPP industry,” said Gerry Muenchmeyer, P.E., technical director of NASSCO (National Association of Sewer Service Companies). “It would affect thousands of employees of companies in that industry and the nation’s much-needed sewer rehabilitation program.”

Cured-in-place pipe technology was introduced 40 years ago and has developed into a billion dollar industry that provides municipalities and private companies an environmentally sound means to rehabilitate failing underground pipeline infrastructure, often at a fraction of the cost of traditional replacement techniques.

Muenchmeyer said there appears to be no evidence that styrene, as it is currently used in the CIPP process, poses any health hazards to the workers installing the CIPP or to the general public.

NASSCO and other organizations representing companies that use styrene in various products have requested that action on the recommendation be delayed until further, comprehensive scientific studies can be conducted.

NASSCO and its members have launched a grassroots campaign to educate legislators and the public on this issue. Letters have been written to HSS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and several members of Congress. The response from HHS -- basically that ramifications of the designation are beyond the scope of the recommendation -- is not encouraging.

The recommendation is awaiting the signature of Secretary Sebelius. There has been no indication when the secretary will make a decision whether to sign the recommendation or delay action for further scientific study and review.

“Prematurely labeling a chemical that is critical to many products and processes across North America would have detrimental effects on the environment, the economy and ultimately, the general population,” Muenchmeyer said.