Skip to main content

Defending the Public's Right to Know About Styrene

Styrene has long been suspected of being harmful to human health. It is used to manufacture many common household products such as disposable cups, containers and other food-contact materials.

Styrene has long been suspected of being harmful to human health. It is used to manufacture many common household products such as disposable cups, containers and other food-contact materials.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Schilder

What's at Stake

The chemical industry wants to hide the truth about dangerous chemicals like styrene from the public. Earthjustice defended the federal government’s effort to provide scientifically based information about toxic chemicals like styrene against industry attack. In 2013, the D.C. District Court rule against industry’s attempts to hide the health effects of styrene.

Case Overview

The chemical styrene is found in all sorts of consumer products—plastics, cars, tires boats and bathtubs, among other things. It is also “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” In other words, it’s important to know that it may be a danger to public health and well-being.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reached this conclusion after seven years of scientific review, vetting by multiple panels of experts and several rounds of public comment. The chemical industry, which manufactures styrene, was not pleased. An industry association sued HHS to withdraw its finding, but Earthjustice intervened to defend the government’s determination.

In May 2013, the D.C. District Court rejected the styrene industry’s challenge to the designation of styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” As a result, the public will now have access to scientifically sound information on the link between styrene exposure and cancer.

Related Features

What You Don't Know Can Kill You

What’s colorless and may cause cancer? The chemical industry doesn’t want you to know the answer is styrene—but Earthjustice is taking them on to reveal the truth.

Case Updates