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.

Last January, NASSCO Executive Director Ted DeBoda sent the first of two letters to Secretary Sebelius saying that NASSCO joins the American Composites Manufacturing Association and Styrene Information and Research Center requesting that before making a final decision, the department should make a reasonable “double check” of the science of the study recommending that styrene be designated a reasonably anticipated carcinogen.

DeBoda explained the use of unsaturated polyester styrene based resin in the CIPP process and noted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers CIPP a major tool in the repair and reconstruction of the nation’s failing pipeline infrastructure.

“Our research,” DeBoda wrote, “has shown that the levels of styrene exposure to workers and the public during field installation of CIPP are significantly lower than standards set by NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] and the EPA in a typical manufacturing or plant facility. Also, once the installed product is cured, it becomes essentially inert with no long-term associated styrene issues.

“To our knowledge, there have not been any verified cases of health related issues associated with the use of styrene,” he pointed out.

The letter to Secretary Sebelius was answered by Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program, who said that she would make sure the Secretary was aware of the points raised by NASSCO. She included a copy of an informational document describing the process used to reach the decision to recommend classifying styrene as a reasonably anticipated human carcinogen (see sidebar).

In late February, DeBoda sent a second letter to Birnbaum, again stating NASSCO’s position on the issue, posing questions NASSCO believes should be addressed before making a decision about whether styrene is a reasonably anticipated human carcinogen, and again cited studies that have found no concern for styrene causing cancer.

Wrote DeBoda: “NTP's classification of styrene as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen’ or the mere perception of the term ‘a carcinogenic hazard,’ may result in thousands of job losses with little or no documented public health risk. Since many independent studies in North America and Europe have concluded that the styrene exposure health hazard does not exist, we recommend that further research and education be performed first to find out the true effects of styrene on humans.”

Birnbaum’s March 17th reply contains the heart of the issue: