The Truth About What Styrene Is

Dart products are safe.

That fact is being challenged by confusion surrounding the public release of the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC). In that report, styrene was listed as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." While the classification dealt with styrene, misinterpretation about the report through some media outlets has occurred and the safety of polystyrene was brought into question. It is very important to note that the NTP has also publicly stated, "We do not believe that people are at risk from using polystyrene products." In an interview discussing cancer risks in our every day environment, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, the NTP director, said in an interview to Associated Press Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione, "Let me put your mind at ease right away about Styrofoam." Levels of styrene that leach from food containers "are hundreds if not thousands of times lower than have occurred in the occupational setting,"

After the NTP Report was issued, Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, stated that consumers don't need to worry about polystyrene cups and food containers. "I see no problem with Styrofoam cups," Brawley said in an interview. Dart is challenging the classification of styrene as detailed below. Again, it is important to emphasize that Dart polystyrene foam food service products are safe and pose absolutely no harm to consumers.

This styrene classification is untrue based on years of studies on the toxicity of styrene on humans. This decision was irresponsible and Dart is vigorously fighting this decision. Dart agreed to participate as a named plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against HHS, seeking to have styrene removed from the NTP report "based on HHS' failure to comply with applicable laws and its own procedures In short, NTP ignored scientific studies showing that styrene is safe.

No other government agency outside the United States agrees with this decision as agencies from the European Union, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong have conducted similar studies on styrene and completely disagree with the NTP's conclusions as stated in the Report.

In a New York Times article, Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, “likened the risk from such products [plastic utensils and other consumer products] to that of coffee and cellphones — uncertain and slight.”

Styrene Occurs naturally in foods such as...

Foods with styrene

What is Styrene?

Styrene is a clear, colorless liquid that is a component of materials used to make thousands of everyday products, including foodservice packaging. It also occurs naturally in foods such as cinnamon, coffee beans, peanuts, strawberries, and wheat. Some people confuse styrene, which is a liquid, with polystyrene, which is a solid plastic made from polymerized styrene. Styrene and polystyrene are fundamentally different materials. Dart foam cups are made from polystyrene.

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Is Styrene Safe?

Most people are exposed to styrene every day in tiny amounts that may be present in the air, primarily from automobile exhaust and cigarette smoke, or that occur naturally in food such as cinnamon, beef, coffee beans, peanuts, wheat, and strawberries. These generally are trace amounts, which were difficult to detect until recent technological advances improved scientists' ability to measure minute amounts of chemicals.

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Does Styrene Cause Cancer?

Styrene is a naturally occurring chemical that can be found in cinnamon, beef, coffee beans, strawberries, and many more foods.  There has never been a documented case of somebody getting sick from styrene any time, any place, ever.  For more information go to

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Additional Information

NTP Styrene Fact Sheet (pdf)
Houma Today: Weighing Cancer Risks
ACC press release
New York Times Article

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