Canadian Packaging

California adds styrene to safe list

By Canadian Packaging staff   

Food Safety American Chemistry Council California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment Polystyrene Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 styrene

California Proposition 65 listing of styrene does not affect polystyrene safety assessments.

WASHINGTON—The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has added styrene to its Proposition 65 list, pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.

Styrene is a liquid substance used to make polystyrene, an inert plastic used to make many consumer products. Also known as ethenylbenzene, vinylbenzene, and phenylethene, styrene is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH=CH2. Styrene is the precursor to polystyrene and several copolymers.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued the following statement that highlights the differences between the two materials of styrene and polystyrene and the safety of polystyrene foodservice packaging.

The statement is attributed to Mike Levy, senior director for ACC’s Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group:


“Consumers can be confident that California’s Proposition 65 action on styrene does not affect the decades-long safety assessments of polystyrene packaging used for foodservice. For more than 50 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that polystyrene is safe for use in foodservice packaging, and regulatory bodies around the world agree, including the European Commission/European Food Safety Authority.

“There are important and obvious differences between styrene and polystyrene. Styrene is a liquid, and polystyrene is an inert solid plastic. They are fundamentally unalike and display distinctly different properties. Styrene is a raw material used to create high-performance plastics, car tires, carpet backing, and reinforced fiberglass composites, such as those used in bathtubs, automobile body panels and wind turbines. Once these products are manufactured, they are inert.

“Officials in California said their decision to add styrene to the Prop 65 list was based on styrene’s listing in the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) 12th Report on Carcinogens in 2011.  California officials determined that NTP’s listing merits a Prop 65 listing.  NTP does not question the safety of polystyrene foodservice packaging. As the NTP Director was widely quoted, “In finished products, certainly styrene is not an issue.

“Polystyrene is an FDA-approved and hygienic material of choice for foodservice packaging to serve foods in schools, hospitals, restaurants, food carts and sports stadiums. Its inherent insulation properties maintain food temperatures and help keep food fresh, hot or cold and ready-to-eat. Polystyrene is also used in a variety of other everyday consumer products, such as cushioning for shipping delicate electronics, energy saving insulation, kitchen appliances, smoke detectors and toys.”

For more information: Styrene, Polystyrene Foodservice Packaging and Prop 65 Q&A or visit

The American Chemistry Council represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people’s lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care, common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues, and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is an $801 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation’s economy. It is the nation’s largest exporter, accounting for fourteen percent of all U.S. exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Image from Wikipedia public domain: is a Ball-and-stick model of the styrene molecule, C8H8, as found in the crystal structure.



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