Styrene is highly biodegradable and does not persist in the environment.
A review of the published literature concludes that styrene is highly volatile in air. As a result of its biodegradability, transport of styrene through the air for appreciable distances (or its potential entry into water and soil) is unlikely in significant amounts from point-source emissions to the atmosphere (e.g. manufacturing facility emissions).
In a SIRC-sponsored study, Dr. Martin Alexander of Cornell University demonstrated that styrene has a half-life of three or four hours, and rapidly breaks down (i.e. within 12 hours) to carbon dioxide and water under aerobic conditions in soil or water. The potential for anaerobic biodegradation exists, but the few data available on anaerobic biodegradation suggest that the compound may persist in subsoils, anoxic aquifers, septic tanks, or sludge.
Measured environmental concentrations of styrene in the air, water and soil are too low to cause effects on mammals, non-mammals or microorganisms. Styrene's volatility and biodegradability keep exposure levels below that required for toxicity; and the compound's properties make bioconcentration at harmful levels unlikely.
In 1997 an updated report entitled "Environmental Fate and Effects of Styrene" was published by Dr. Alexander in the journal Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology.
Other Sources of Environmental Health Information:
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- American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
- California Environmental Protection Agency
- California EPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)
- California Division of Occupational Safety and Health
- Health & Safety Executive of the United Kingdom
- International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
- National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
- National Research Council
- National Safety Council
- National Toxicology Program (NTP)
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)