Styrene - the key chemical component of foam cups and other
food service items - might cause cancer in people, scientists have notified.
Styrene can be 'reasonably anticipated to be a human
carcinogen', said the National Research Council in the U.S.
The conclusion was reached by a panel of 10 experts in
toxicology, chemistry and medicine.
Jane Henney, M.D., who chaired the research council's
committee of experts, said that it's important to keep in mind that this is a
"Our report says this chemical could be a problem, but
a full risk-assessment on dose, exposure, quantification, and further
characterization of the risk would need to be done before one would think about
regulation in this area," added Henney.
The panel's conclusion means there is scientific evidence
suggesting that styrene causes cancer, but that there may be "alternative
explanations, such as chance, bias or confounding factors."
Another higher definition "known to be a
carcinogen" means there is overwhelming scientific evidence that leaves
no element of doubt that a substance causes cancer.
The National Research Council is a major policy body and
advisory division of the National Academies, which includes the Institute of
Medicine, the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of
Styrene is a widely used compound in resins and plastics,
but is best known as the polymer polystyrene, which is extensively used in
plastic foam products.
For decades, industry leaders have insisted that
styrene-based products, especially those used in food service, are safe.