Styrene Litigation Continues; Labeling May Not Be Required

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | October 2011, Vol. 66 No. 10

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has established a schedule for filing motions by both parties in the styrene industry’s legal challenge to the federal government’s designation of styrene as a possible cause of cancer.

The lawsuit was filed by the Styrene Information and Research Center (SIRC) immediately after an announcement in June by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that styrene had been added to the latest HHS National Toxicology Program (NTP) Report on Carcinogens (RoC) identifying chemicals and biological agents that put people at risk for cancer. In the report. Styrene is categorized as a “reasonably anticipated carcinogen.”

The schedule for filings ordered by the court is:
• Oct. 7, the government’s motion for a summary judgment request the court to rule in the government’s favor;
• Nov. 14, filing of SIRC’s response to the government’s motion and filing SIRC’s motion for a summary judgment;
• Dec. 5, the government’s reply to SIRC’s option to the government’s motion for a summary judge and opposition to SIRC’s summary judgment motion; and
• Dec. 27, SIRC’s response to the government’s opposition filing.

In addition, the court scheduled a status conference with both parties for March 28, 2012.

In July, the court denied a SIRC motion for a preliminary injunction ordering withdrawal of styrene from the RoC report, and the schedule for filings was the next step in the legal process.

Classification of styrene as a possible cancer-causing agent is concern to the pipe rehabilitation industry because styrene is a primary ingredient used to manufacture certain types of pipes and the thermoset resins used in cured-in-place-pipe (CIPP) sewer rehabilitation.

Flawed science?
The primary issue raised in litigation and by others opposing the designation is that the science behind the decision to name styrene a possible carcinogen is flawed and that there is no proven link between styrene and cancer in humans and animals.

Rehabilitation industry association NASSCO supports that position and contends that there is 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 also cited independent studies in North America and Europe that concluded that a styrene exposure health hazard does not exist.