New Study Shows Cancer Risks Unlikely from Foam Products

A new study conducted by Gradient Corporation, a leading consulting firm with a focus on environmental and risk science, questions claims made that chemicals within polystyrene foam pose any form of cancer risk to individual consumers. The study specifically reviewed the chemical styrene, which is used to make polystyrene foam products. Polystyrene foam is often referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, and takes on several forms of foodservice products and packaging items

This study reviewed the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) 2011 classification of styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” as well as the NTP’s listing of styrene in the Report on Carcinogens.  According to findings within the Gradient study:  “The epidemiology studies show no consistent increased incidence of, or mortality from, any type of cancer… The lack of concordance of tumor incidence and tumor type among animals (even within the same species) and humans indicates that there has been no particular cancer consistently observed among all available studies… As a whole, the evidence does not support the characterization of styrene as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,’ and styrene should not be listed in the Report on Carcinogens.”

To come to their final recommendation, Gradient also looked to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The IARC has styrene ranked at a lower level than the NTP report claims, instead ranking it as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” or the same rankings they’ve given to pickles and coffee. Much like the Gradient review, when IARC studied workers that had been exposed to relatively high levels of styrene they were unable to find any significant risk of cancer among them.

Richard Belzer, president of Regulatory Checkbook, a non-profit whose mission is to improve the quality of scientific and economic information used in regulatory decision making, concludes that the main problem with the NTP’s classification of the chemical styrene is that it isn’t actually scientific. He states that the criteria and terminology for NTP classifications lack scientific meaning, and instead are purely subjective observations. Releasing misinformation with no other context is not only harmful to product livelihood, but also to individual consumers.

Source: Open Market

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