The Styrene Is A Clear Colorless Liquid Biology Essay

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Styrene is a clear, colorless liquid that is a constituent of materials used to make thousands of daily products used at home, school, work and play. Styrene is used in food containers and packaging materials, cars, boats, video games etc.It is Derived from natural gas and petroleum by-products, styrene helps produce thousands of extremely strong, flexible, and light-weight products, representing an important part of the quality of life and U.S. economy. It is important to note that it is the synthetic styrene manufactured in petrochemical plants located in the U.S. and, around the world that is used to produce these products.

Many products contributing to increased personal health and safety. They increase convenience and quality to daily life, this include; containers that keep yogurt fresh , Jewel cases that protect CD recreational equipment, and myriad consumer electronics, bathroom and kitchen appliances, transportation, construction, medical tools in hospitals and many others. Styrene based materials include; styrene-acrylonitrile, acrylonitrile-butadiene styrene, unsaturated polyester resin also known as fiberglass and the most common form of styrene as polystyrene. However, styrene also occurs in the environment, which represents natural occurrence in foods, such as cinnamon, coffee and strawberries (Smith, 1986).

General description

Styrene is a colorless liquid which evaporates easily. In its pure form, it has a sweet smell. When manufactured, styrene may contain aldehydes, which give it the sharp, unpleasant odor. Large amounts of styrene are produced in the United States. Plants, bacteria, and fungi produce small amounts of styrene naturally. It is also present in combustion products such as automobile exhaust and cigarette smoke (Bartolucci, 1986).

Styrene odour thresholds for solutions in water range from 0.02 to 2.6 mg/litre. The average taste threshold for styrene in water at 40 °C is 0.12 mg/litre. The estimated odour threshold for styrene in air is 0.1 mg/m3 .Styrene is used for the production of resins and plastics.

styrene molecular Styrene

While much has focused on addressing styrene's carcinogenic possibility, researchers also have investigated styrene's potential reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, genotoxicity and, mutagenicity, as well as its potential to be an environmental pollutant (Baselt, 1988).

The following paper will discuss how styrene found in the environment affects the body's ability to sustain a constant internal environment and how treatment would return the body to homeostasis. If a toxin such as styrene is released either from an industrial plant, or a container, it eventually enters the environment. Such a release does not automatically lead to exposure. It is only when you come into contact with the substance that you become exposed. These may be through breathing, drinking, or eating the substance, or by skin contact. Many factors will dictate whether you will be harmed, when exposed to styrene. These factors include how you come in contact, the duration (how long) and the dose (how much).Lifestyle, age, family traits, exposure to other chemicals, sex, diet and state of health are also important factors to consider (Smith, 1986).



Due to the high reactivity with hydroxyl radicals and ozone, concentrations of styrene far from its source are negligible. The concentrations are higher near styrene production plants, while indoor air concentrations may be significantly lower in homes of nonsmokers than smokers.


Styrene can be detected in low concentrations in great lakes and in groundwater. It is also present in charcoal-filtered drinking water and finished drinking water. Styrene volatilizes from surface waters, or removed from waters by adsorption onto soils and sediments. It may leach through soil under certain conditions, and enter ground water (Smith, 1986).


Food packed in polystyrene containers may contain styrene. This includes yoghurt and other milk products and honey. In meat products, styrene is present in the outermost layers and after cooking it is not detected.

Styrene can be found in, soil, air and water after it is released from the manufacture, use, and disposal of products manufactured from styrene. Styrene is rapidly broken down in the air, usually within 1-2 days. It evaporates from shallow soils and surface water. Some may remain in water or soil and may be broken down by bacteria or other microorganisms.

How styrene enters the body

Most people are exposed to styrene daily in tiny amounts present in the air, or that occur in food. These generally are trace amounts, difficult to detect .We also may recognize styrene by its distinctive odor when using certain products such as, paints ,latexes and polyester resin solutions. Exposure to styrene may occur by, inhalation ingestion or dermal absorption. The most likely mode of exposure to the general population is by inhalation of indoor air. Additional exposures may occur from ingestion of food stored in polystyrene containers and inhalation of outdoor air (Gustavson, 1978).

Outdoor air concentrations are likely to be higher in urban areas than in rural and are likely to be small as compared to indoor air concentrations. Insignificant amount of exposure may be from municipal drinking water. However, groundwater if used as a local water supply may provide significant exposure to styrene at hazardous waste sites where styrene has been detected. The exposure of the population to styrene varies significantly from small amounts to the worst extreme scenario. Styrene has been identified in adipose tissue, in blood and in exhaled breath.

Inhalation Exposure

Workers that work in styrene manufacturing plants especially polyester resins are exposed to styrene vapors. Few human clinical studies that show better quantification of exposure exist. The effects of inhalation exposure of humans to styrene include; Respiratory effects, which is reflected by mucous membrane irritation as the general symptom, gastrointestinal effects and nausea. The major contribution to gastrointestinal irritation is mucociliary transport of styrene aerosol droplets. This occurs from the upper respiratory tract to the gastrointestinal tract. (Gustavson, 1978)

Some workers in the styrene-butadiene synthetic rubber factory exposed to styrene have reduced digestive function and decreased stomach acidity. Hematological Effects, inhalation exposure to styrene cause mild effects on the blood. The hepatic effect of styrene inhalation includes, significant increase in γ-glutamyl transferase levels, however no alterations in aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, or alkaline phosphatase levels are observed. Most of the hepatic effects of styrene are seen during acute and intermediate exposure while the effects decrease with continuing exposure (Baselt, 1988).

Endocrine Effects

Several studies have shown potential endocrine effects in plastics industry workers exposed to styrene. This includes; increase in serum prolactin levels, the serum prolactin levels correlated with urinary metabolite levels and blood styrene levels. Workers exposed to styrene exposures more than20 ppm would be more likely to have elevated serum prolactin levels than workers exposed to lower levels. Exposure to styrene may also alter the levels of follicle stimulating hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone (Smith, 1986).

General symptoms exhibited by the body

Clinical symptoms have been reported due to exposure to styrene which includes dizziness, headaches, impaired memory, problems concentrating, irritation and feeling "drunk". Plastic industry workers exposed to styrene have a higher prevalence of dizziness, headaches, fatigue light headedness, irritability, and memory loss. Workers with high exposure to styrene have sensory symptoms in the upper and lower extremities compared to those with low styrene exposure. In chronic exposure, for example,on workers, styrene-induced damage to the vestibular system and hearing impairment (Andersson, 1980).

How styrene affects the body at the cellular and tissue levels

Styrene at high concentrations in air can cause irritation of the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract and depression of the central nervous system, which is indicated by drowsiness, listlessness, in coordination, increased simple reaction times, and changes in visual evoked response. For long periods of exposure, Irritation of respiratory mucosa, conjunctival and pre-narcotic symptoms are common with neurotoxicity involving the peripheral as well as the central nervous systems. After a long time of exposure to styrene hepatotoxicity is also possible (Andersson, 1980).There is also evidence of teratogenic effect and styrene-induced reproduction in female exposed to styrene. Occupational exposure to styrene is associated with the occurrence of leukemia and lymphoma.

What the medical community does to treat a patient that has been affected by the Styrene

Potential sequelae

If the patient is able to survive the first 48hours after inhalation exposure, re-covery is likely. Pulmonary function returns to normal in 7 to 14 days after acute exposure. Complete recovery is normal; however, pulmonary deficits and symptoms may persist. Chronic dilation of the bronchi and higher susceptibility to infection is due to pulmonary tissue destruction and scarring. Peripheral and Central neuropathies which includes disturbance of psychomotor performance, distal hypesthesia persistent or premature dementia and decreased nerve conduction velocities and oto-toxicity have been observed in chronically exposed patients.

Initial treatment

Since there is no specific antidote to counteract styrene effects, therapy is done be empirically. When the exposure is more than 100ppm for more than 15minutes and the symptoms include eye irritation and pulmonary symptoms, initial treatment can be done, 5 puff of beclomethasone using a metered dose inhaler. If signs of hypoxemia and severe inhalation exposure exist, humidified supplemental oxygen should be administered. In cases of respiratory compromise Intubation of the trachea should be considered. Consider cricothyrotomy, when the patient's condition precludes this, and if equipped and trained to do so. Treat as thermal burns, if styrene gas or liquid styrene has been in contact with the skin (Bartolucci, 1986).Following ingestion mouth should be rinsed with plenty of water and then charcoal as slurry administered.


Most of the styrene will rapidly enter your body through your lungs, when you breathe air containing styrene, Styrene in water or food may also quickly enter your body through the digestive tract. Very minute amount may enter through the skin when into contact with liquids containing styrene. Once in your body, it is broken down into other chemicals. Most of these other chemicals leave the body in the urine within few days. The most common health problems in people exposed to styrene involve the nervous system. These include tiredness, changes in color vision, feeling drunk, concentration problems, slowed reaction time, and balance problems. It is important to note that styrene concentrations that cause such effects are higher than the levels found in the environment.