Perks?
Styrene Exposure Health Risks
Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Peterson Products worjker with nose and mouth  maskCDC-INFO (Center for Disease Control) advises the MRL standard for styrene set by ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) for kids' safety and health, which is 260 micrograms per cubic meter, translating to about 60ppb. Air testing results direct from the County reveal levels which are multiples of this standard, reaching as high as 333ppb - 500 ppb (half a ppm) according to Dirk Jensen from San Mateo County Environmental Health: jump to Inspection data direct from the County
bad smellIt is important to note that, just because you can't smell it, it doesn't mean that it's not there - what does it mean if you are smelling the styrene odor? According to EPA / TTN, the odor threshold (the lowest concentration point at which you can smell it) for styrene is 0.32 parts per million (ppm), 320 ppb - that is over 5 times greater than the 60 ppb standard for kids (source EPA/TTN).

"Its odor is sweet at very low concentrations, but becomes sharp and disagreeable at higher concentrations" (source dhs).
click Factory Scorecard for more info on the chemical emissions from Peterson Products, the 2002 3rd dirtiest facility for polluting the community in San Mateo County
Health Hazard Information source: EPA

Acute Effects:
* Acute exposure to styrene in humans results in respiratory effects, such as mucous membrane irritation, eye irritation, and gastrointestinal effects.

Chronic Effects (Noncancer):
* Chronic exposure to styrene in humans results in effects on the CNS (Central Nervous System), with symptoms such as headache, fatigue, weakness, depression, CNS dysfunction (reaction time, memory, visuomotor speed and accuracy, intellectual function), and hearing loss, peripheral neuropathy (a condition of the nervous system that usually begins in the hands and/or feet with symptoms of numbness, tingling, burning and/or weakness), minor effects on some kidney enzyme functions and on the blood.
* Animal studies have reported effects on the CNS, liver, kidney, and eye and nasal irritation from inhalation exposure to styrene.
* Liver, blood, kidney, and stomach effects have been observed in animals following chronic oral exposure.

Reproductive/Developmental Effects:
* Increased frequency of spontaneous abortions and a decreased frequency of births were reported in a study on the reproductive effects of styrene in humans.
* Lung tumors have been observed in the offspring of orally exposed mice.

Cancer Risk:
* Several epidemiologic studies suggest that there may be an association between styrene exposure and an increased risk of leukemia and lymphoma.
* IARC has classified styrene as a Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans.
* Styrene oxide, a product of styrene metabolism in the body, is an established mutagen and carcinogen and is believed to be the reason for the toxicity of styrene. Styrene oxide has been detected in workers exposed to styrene. IARC has classified this metabolite as a Group 2A, probable human carcinogen.

Styrene: EPA Regulated Hazardous Waste, listed as toxic chemical
"EPA has determined that emissions of these chemicals present a threat to human health
"
"It is readily absorbed through all routes of exposure and tends to store in fatty tissues. Acute exposure causes eye and mucous membrane irritation, dizziness, and even death due to respiratory system paralysis." source: EPA

Potential for Accumulation:
Styrene is readily absorbed following inhalation exposure and ingestion, and is widely distributed throughout the body. A small amount is absorbed through the skin. The highest concentration of styrene is found in fat tissue. Styrene is rapidly metabolized to styrene oxide...Absorbed styrene is cleared from the body within 4 days.
source: CCOHS

Parent and child walking to San Mateo Gymnastics on Elmer Street, Belmont, CA
"DANGER! FLAMMABLE LIQUID AND VAPOR. HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED, INHALED OR ABSORBED THROUGH SKIN. CAUSES IRRITATION TO SKIN, EYES AND RESPIRATORY TRACT. AFFECTS CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM, LIVER AND REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM." Read more at MSDS
San Mateo Gymnastics front, people, school bus
Kids Are at Greater Risk

Children especially are more vulnerable to exposures than adults in communities faced with contamination of their air, water, soil, or food for the following factors:
1) Children weigh less than adults, resulting in higher doses of chemical exposure relative to body weight
2) The developing bodily systems of children can suffer permanent damage if toxic exposures occur during critical growth stages
3) Children have a breathing zone lower to the ground
4)
Children consume three times as much air per pound of body
weight as an adult, drink three times as much water and eat three times as much food and thus are more susceptible to the effects of toxic chemicals
sources: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) , CDC-INFO ,
VPIRG

Parent and child walking to San Mateo Gymnastics on Karen Road
Breathing Rates:
Newborns: Average 44 breaths per minute
Infants: 20-40 breaths per minute
Preschool children: 20-30 breaths per minute
Older children: 16-25 breaths per minute
Adults: 12 to 20 breaths per minute
source: Wikipedia
Gymnasts outside in front of San Mateo Gymnastics on Elmer Street, Belmont, CAgymnast doing gymnastics basrs routine
Even More At Risk When Exercising source: America Lung Association
"Exercise makes us more vulnerable to health damage from these pollutants. We breathe more air during exercise or strenuous work. We draw air more deeply into the lungs. And when we exercise heavily, we breathe mostly through the mouth, bypassing the body's first line of defense against pollution, the nose."gymnasts with open mouth breathing hard while doing gymnastics
"Oxygen is necessary for our muscles to function. In fact, the purpose of exercise training is to improve the body's ability to deliver oxygen. As a result, when we exercise, we may increase our intake of air by as much as ten times our level at rest."

"An endurance athlete can process as much as twenty times the normal intake. Mouth breathing during exercise bypasses the nasal passages, the body's natural air filter. These facts mean that when we exercise in polluted air, we increase our contact with the pollutants, and increase our vulnerability to health damage.

The interaction between air pollution and exercise is so strong that health scientists typically use exercising volunteers in their research."

Recommendations include:
Do make sure teachers, coaches and recreation officials know about air pollution and act accordingly.
Most important, do be aware of the quality of the air you breathe!
Don't take air pollution lightly, it can hurt all of us!

Is there a medical test to show whether I've been exposed to styrene?

Styrene and its breakdown products can be measured in your blood, urine, and body tissues. Styrene leaves your body quickly. If you are tested within one day, the actual amount of exposure can be estimated. However, it is difficult to predict if the exposure will affect your health.

The test for styrene and its breakdown products require special equipment and are not usually available at your doctor's office, but may be ordered by the doctor. Your doctor can take samples and send them to a testing laboratory. source: CDC-INFO

If you are concerned about being exposed to harmful levels of styrene, CDC-INFO advises you contact
your state health department and your regional EPA office: click here for contacts

Sources of Exposure

The major way you can be exposed to styrene is by breathing air containing it. Styrene is found in city air and indoor air. Styrene is released into the air from industries that make and use styrene. It is also released from automobile exhaust and cigarette smoke. Styrene can enter your body through your lungs if you breathe contaminated air or through your stomach and intestines if you eat or drink contaminated food or water. Styrene can also pass through the skin into your body. source: CDC-INFO

cigarette smoke has styrene 6pbbChildren can inhale styrene from secondhand cigarette smoke. First on the list for "How to minimize exposure to styrene" by Children's Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC) is: "Reduce your children's exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke". You probably wouldn't let your children be around cigarette smoke with the "second-hand smoke kills" campaign (see Related: Belmont's ban on smoking) - but it actually contains less styrene than chemical emissions from a fiberglass factory such as Peterson Products.
Most airborne styrene exposure comes from industrial activities and motor vehicle exhaust, with typical ambient concentrations reaching around 1 part per billion (ppb). For smokers, the dominant source of inhaled styrene can be cigarettes, which can increase average exposures for these individuals to 6 ppb. The panel estimated that under a pessimistic set of conditions, individuals living near a large styrene manufacturing facility could be exposed to lifetime average ambient concentrations exceeding 200 ppb
source: Harvard Center for Risk Analysis
Ok...so let's talk numbers...
CDC-INFO (Center for Disease Control) advises the MRL standard for styrene set by ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) for kids' safety and health, which is 260 micrograms per cubic meter, translating to about 60ppb. Air testing results direct from the County reveal levels which are multiples of this standard, reaching as high as 333ppb - 500 ppb (half a ppm) according to Dirk Jensen from San Mateo County Environmental Health:
"concentrations I got were ranging from about a few ppb to maybe...around 150...I might have gotten a couple hits up around a couple hundred ppb...Still nothing that was exceeding ...an exposure limit for an 8-hour work day. ...I was getting about a third to a half of... a ppm" (7/24/07)....more below:
Currently Available Data from Environmental Health Inspections Summer 2007
Naomi Bernardo from Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) made inspections on Peterson Products based on this issue starting June 21st, but would not take any air measurements, just make suggestions to the factory on how to reduce chemical emissions coming from the factory.

San Mateo County Environmental Health Department was then contacted.
Tuesday July 10, 2007: Dirk Jensen met with managers Erica Meitz and Margaret Morrison at San Mateo Gymnastics, "They both stated that odor problem has decreased considerably over the years however some odors still"*. Dirk "believe[s] this is primarily a BAAQMD matter but [he] will investigate further due to public health concern", left message for Naomi Bernardo.
**view Peterson Products chemical emissions reported from 1988-2005
Thursday July 12, 2007: Dirk Jensen received notice that the odor problem is still significant.
Tuesday July 17, 2007: Dirk Jensen notes he "conducted some monitoring at approx. 3pm in parking lot adjacent to Peterson Products and San Mateo Gymnastics. Some readings in ppb range well below exposure limit for chemicals associated with Peterson Products"**. He "met with Bob Scheer, plant manager for Peterson Products and discussed complaint. Naomi Bernardo from BAAQMD recently inspected business and made a number of recommendations now being implemented at Peterson Products". No actual measurements are noted.
**The exposure limit Dirk is referring to is OSHA's 100 ppm styrene limit for workers in a 8-hour work day, 40-hour work week; styrene is rated "C", so at no time is the limit supposed to exceed this amount. source: OSHA Would you use this limit for your kids? CDC-INFO and ATSDR advise otherwise: ~60 ppb!! -->see MRL info below
Wednesday July 18, 2007: Dirk "returned with monitoring equipment and conducted monitoring in parking area and near gym...observed variable monitor results ranging from 5-60 ppb."
From Dirk, 7/18/07: Peterson Products is "in compliance with Air Quality...and with our agency for the most part". There are "definitely some fairly high levels inside Peterson Products". "During normal business hours...in theory the peak hours, work hours". "I did talk to Erica and I did suggest that if the odors do get strong...they consider...putting some fans there by the roll-up door...and I can't really...direct them...as far as how to run a business...but I did make that suggestion again and she sort of acknowledged that, but we'll see what happens".
From Dirk, Tuesday July 24, 2007:
"I didn't get out there until right about 9:00 this morning, so they were still in production mode over at Peterson Products, I'm fairly certain...the odors were comprable to what I observed last week, maybe a little bit stronger...The readings I got...were strongest down towards Elmer, along that alleyway...Karen Road...in that area, the parking area...on the backside of the building...for the gym. By the roll-up door I didn't get anything that significant, so the odors weren't that strong there,..they were a little higher, ... you know in concentrations I got were ranging from about a few ppb to maybe...around 150...I might have gotten a couple hits up around a couple hundred ppb which is...about maybe 3 or 4 times what I observed last week on my monitor. Still nothing that was exceeding ...an exposure limit for an 8-hour work day. ...I was getting about a third to a half of... a ppm,...so...probably I guess...more of a nuisance odor that anything else...unfortunately the levels are going to vary...depending on the wind current...the type of work they're doing that day...I'm not getting anything that I would consider a significant health hazard, it might be a minor health hazard...
I'll try to get out 2 or 3 more times just to try to get...some data over a period of time....you want to monitor...ideally on a coninuous basis, but we don't have that capability. I can come over there and do spot checks basically...."
"It appears that the...concentration, or the level of the...styrene contaminants will vary ...depending on where I'm standing and taking my monitor reading, and also varies based on the weather conditions to a large extent as well as the time of day that I show up possibly...because their work level may vary...it's unfortunate that the gym is right next to a fiberglass manufacturing company, and I still think if they put fans...in the entry way that might help...but I can't tell them how to run a business there..."

From Dirk, Wednesday July 25, 2007:
"I did stop by...the gym area and the parking lot, and at Peterson Products there this morning at about 7:15,... did some readings, and...basically not a lot different than what I have been getting, so we're... still talking parts per billion range in terms of the concentraion of the... contaminants there, the styrene vapors ...so outside in the driveway area along Karen Road,... about around 150, 160 ppb was the highest reading I got. It's definitely ...more concentrated as you get closer to the corner of the gym, gymnastics building by the roll-up door, ...but mostly...as it goes down that driveway towards Elmer street that would be the kind of the corridor there...between...the 2 buildings there where it's most concentrated...didn't get a lot ...in that side parking lot...directly adjacent to the roll-up door...those levels weren't too bad...but yeah closer to the driveway...up and down Karen Rd, that's where it seems to be highest, again closer to the gymnastics building more so than closer to Old County Rd.

...There is the possibility that when they have the roll-up door up that that might change the wind current or flow, maybe it's...creating... a negative pressure...pressure differential when the roll-up door is open, so it might be drawing in ..more vapors when the door is up there, possibly, since that seems to be an area where the vapors are a little more concentrated, it's fairly close to the ...stack, vent stack coming out of Peterson Products...
...I did go inside Peterson Products...They got some high levels in the production area where the guys, the workers are wearing respirators...definitely levels above the permissible exposure limit in the work area of the production shop..."

Parent and child walking to car from San  Mateo Gymnastics on Karen Road, Belmont, CAParent and child walking on Karen Road to San Mateo GymnasticsSan Mateo Gymnastics back of building and fiberglass factory ventSan Mateo Gymnastics back of gym, corner, and open roll-up door
Peterson Products fiberglass factory vent stack
What is the limit provided by the ATSDR and CDC-INFO for children?
...the MRL Standard
...it is not OSHA's 8-hour work exposure limit!!

When considering how well the experimental data can be applied to the general population, an uncertainty factor for human variability is used in developing the minimum risk levels (MRL). This uncertainty factor addresses the application of the MRL to sensitive populations, including children and the elderly, which may not have been involved in the study population on which the MRL is based. Therefore the MRLs are considered protective of these sensitive populations. source CDC-INFO, ATSDR

The MRL for styrene = 260 micrograms per cubic meter, which translates to ~60 ppb (at 25 °C/77 °F 1 ppm = 4.26 mg/m3, MRL translates to 61 ppb then) source ATSDR, EPA/TTN

"Workplace standards are typically not intended to be protective for the general population AND many are not protective for workers." - Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility (GBPSR)

Peterson Products fiberglass factory next to neighbors, homes, residences
Other names for styrene (Wikipedia)
Vinyl benzene,
cinnamene
styrol
ethenylbenzene
phenethylene
phenylethene
diarex HF 77
styrolene
styropol

Related information:

“There are environmental standards set for many chemicals. These standards assume exposure 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for varying numbers of years. Most of these environmental standards are set only for one environmental medium (ie. air, water, soil), and don’t take other pathways into account. Most also are set for adults, not children. The Hazardous Ambient Air Standard for styrene is 512 micrograms (µg)/m3 [~120ppb]. There are concerns about whether that standard is adequate. If there are concerns about a specific facility, we would suggest that you contact your local air pollution control district.”
-NRDCinfo senior scientists, Gina Solomon

The chronic inhalation REL from Cal/EPA OEHHA for styrene is 200 ppb
source: OEHHA

Texas Short-Term Screening Level = 91.8 ppb
According to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, no health effects are thought to occur below this level. "Short-term" levels refer to the average exposure level during one hour.
Texas Long-Term Screening Level = 9.18
According to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, no health effects are thought to occur below this level. "Long-term" levels refer to the average exposure level during a year (24 hours for benzene and ethylne dichloride)
ATSDR Chronic Minimal Risk Level = 59.9 ppb
According to hte America Toxic Substances and Disease Regsitry, there is no appreciable risk of non-cancer health effects from being exposed to concentrations up to this level over periods longer than one year.
source: Global Community Monitor (gcm)

What does it mean if you are smelling the styrene odor?

It is important to note that, just because you can't smell it, it doesn't mean that it's not there - what does it mean if you are smelling the styrene odor? According to EPA / TTN, the odor threshold (the lowest concentration point at which you can smell it) for styrene is 0.32 parts per million (ppm), 320 ppb - that is over 5 times greater than the 60 ppb standard for kids (source EPA/TTN).

bad smell
Just because you can't smell it, it doesn't mean that it's not there. But when you do smell the styrene odor...
CALL BAAQMD
24 hour toll-free complaint hotline
1-800-334-ODOR(6367)
"Its odor is sweet at very low concentrations, but becomes sharp and disagreeable at higher concentrations" (source dhs).
What happens to styrene when it enters the environment?
  • Styrene enters the environment during the manufacture, use, and disposal of styrene-based products. It can be found in air, water, and soil.
  • It is broken down in the air usually within 1 to 2 days.
  • It evaporates from shallow soils and surface water.
  • It doesn't stick easily to soils and sediments.
  • It's broken down by bacteria in the soil and water.
  • It's not expected to build up in animals.
  • Styrene breaks down to half the amount within a few days in surface water; in groundwater, however, it takes between 6 weeks and 7.5 months.
    source ATSDR
More Factory Photos and Hazard Signs

Peterson Products fiberglass factory on Karen Road, from Old COunty Road, to Elmer Street, open door

Peterson Products fiberglass factory, white globe

Peterson Products fiberglass factory open roll-up door
"Styrene is primarily a synthetic chemical that is used extensively in the manufacture of plastics, rubber, and resins..." such as the white globe in the photo to the left. source: OSHA

Peterson Products front on Old COunty Road, hazard sign

Propane at Peterson Products

NFPA 704 Standard:
The sign is diamond-shaped with four smaller diamonds inside, blue, red, yellow, andwhite. A material is assigned a rating in three categories: health (blue), fire (red), and instability(yellow). The white box is reserved for special hazards such as water reactivity or an oxidizer.
Peterson Products hazard signs
"NO SMOKING OR OPEN FLAMES PERMITTED WITHIN 50 FT."
HEALTH BLUE: Rating = 2 Hazardous
Exposure may cause temporary incapacitation or residual injury.
FIRE RED: Rating = 4
Highly flammable liquids and gases. Flash point < 73° F. Readily capable of detonation or reaction at normal temperatures.
INSTABILITY YELLOW: Rating = 2
May undergo violent chemical change at elevated temperatures.
NFPA source ,source: Emergency Planning for Chemical Spills
Sample hazard signs:
Peterson Products hazard sign worse than all of these...
sample hazard signs, motor oil, gasoline, diesel, heating fuel, kerosene

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