Styrene Among Top Suspected Carcinogens - American Cancer Society

This recent article - Top 5 Suspected Everyday Carcinogens in the American Cancer Society's Scary New Report - issued in July of 2010, notes that styrene, the primary component in expanded polystyrene or EPS (Dow trade name Styrofoam), is a leading suspected carcinogen by the American Cancer Society.  Long known as a neurotoxin, more and more evidence has been shown that styrenes can leach out of polystyrene or Styrofoam food packaging and into the very food that we consume.  In fact many towns in California already have or are presently attempting to ban polystyrene food packaging due to both health safety and lack of recyclability concerns.  Do you think it is chemically impossible for styrenes to "leach" out of a polystyrene chain?  In fact the belief is that the leaching styrenes were never part of the polymer chain to begin with.  Because the manufacturing process is not entirely efficient, not all styrenes are joined into the polymer chain and remain free to "roam" in the future.  By the way, the word "styrene" is simply a marketing name for vinyl benzene.

Why is this relevant on a polyurethane structural insulated panel website?  For years many of our competitors that manufacture EPS (expanded polystyrene) SIPs have been lying to potential customers of ours and literally telling people that our panels will off-gas and kill people (seriously, they have said "kill people" in trade shows where we were also present).  In fact the exact same foam that we use in our panels is commonly used in Energy Star rated refrigerators and Igloo(R) coolers manufactured today - and the last time I checked there were no stories on refrigerators or coolers killing people or even being suspected of doing any harmful thing.  Yet now we are seeing more and more articles on styrenes being found in human tissue samples (as in studies referenced in several of the links above).  I think this is the same concept that some politicians use - accuse your enemies of what you are actually doing yourself to divert attention from your own deeds.  As you can read on our website, the polyurethane foam that we use in our panels is stronger, safer, more chemically stable and almost twice as insulative per inch as expanded polystyrene or EPS.

To me this casts an entirely new light on the thought of living in a building envelope made entirely of polystyrene foam as one would do when choosing to build with EPS SIPs.  Wouldn't this put you in the same category as the food inside a Styrofoam food container?  While I have seen no evidence of anyone studying the health effects of persons living in a home made of EPS panels, it is not a chance that I would want to take.  And with the growing amount of literature on styrene's leaching, off-gassing, neurotoxic and carcinogenic effects, I wonder if there is the potential for future lawsuits against persons that specified the product for construction.