ChemicalBook >> CAS DataBase List >>Styrene


Chemical Name:
Molecular Formula:
Lewis structure
c8h8 lewis structure
Molecular Weight:
MDL Number:
MOL File:
MSDS File:
Last updated:2024-04-29 14:28:21

Styrene Properties

Melting point -31 °C (lit.)
Boiling point 145-146 °C (lit.)
Density 0.906 g/mL at 25 °C
vapor density 3.6 (vs air)
vapor pressure 12.4 mm Hg ( 37.7 °C)
refractive index n20/D 1.546(lit.)
Flash point 88 °F
storage temp. Store at <= 20°C.
solubility 0.24g/l
form Liquid
pka >14 (Schwarzenbach et al., 1993)
Specific Gravity 0.909
color Colorless
Odor at 0.10 % in triacetin. sweet balsam floral plastic
Odor Type balsamic
Odor Threshold 0.035ppm
explosive limit 1.1-8.9%(V)
Water Solubility 0.3 g/L (20 ºC)
FreezingPoint -30.6℃
Sensitive Air Sensitive
Merck 14,8860
BRN 1071236
Henry's Law Constant (x 10-3 atm?m3/mol): 3.91 at 25 °C (static headspace-GC, Welke et al., 1998)
Dielectric constant 2.4(25℃)
Exposure limits TLV-TWA 50 ppm (~212 mg/m3) (ACGIH and NIOSH), 100 ppm (~425 mg/m3) (OSHA and MSHA); ceiling 200 ppm, peak 600 ppm/5 min/3 h (OSHA); STEL 100 ppm (~425 mg/m3) (ACGIH).
Stability Stable, but may polymerize upon exposure to light. Normally shipped with a dissolved inhibitor. Substances to be avoided include strong acids, aluminium chloride, strong oxidizing agents, copper, copper alloys, metallic salts, polymerization catalysts and accelerators. Flammable - vapour may travel considerable distance to ignition source
EPA Primary Drinking Water Standard MCL:0.1,MCLG:0.1
LogP 2.96 at 25℃
Substances Added to Food (formerly EAFUS) STYRENE--NLFG
FDA 21 CFR 175.105; 175.300; 176.180; 177.1010; 177.2600; 178.3790
CAS DataBase Reference 100-42-5(CAS DataBase Reference)
EWG's Food Scores 7-9
Proposition 65 List Styrene
NIST Chemistry Reference Styrene(100-42-5)
IARC 2A (Vol. 60, 82, 121) 2019
EPA Substance Registry System Styrene (100-42-5)


Risk and Safety Statements

Symbol(GHS)  GHS hazard pictogramsGHS hazard pictogramsGHS hazard pictograms
Signal word  Danger
Hazard statements  H226-H304-H315-H319-H332-H335-H361-H372-H412
Precautionary statements  P210-P273-P301+P310-P303+P361+P353-P304+P340+P312-P331
Hazard Codes  Xn,T,F
Risk Statements  10-20-36/38-40-36/37/38-39/23/24/25-23/24/25-11-48/20-63
Safety Statements  23-36-26-16-45-36/37-7-46
RIDADR  UN 2055 3/PG 3
WGK Germany  2
RTECS  WL3675000
Autoignition Temperature 914 °F
HS Code  2902 50 00
HazardClass  3
PackingGroup  III
Toxicity LD50 in mice (mg/kg): 660 ± 44.3 i.p.; 90 ± 5.2 i.v.
IDLA 700 ppm
NFPA 704
2 2

Styrene price More Price(40)

Manufacturer Product number Product description CAS number Packaging Price Updated Buy
Sigma-Aldrich 8.07679 Styrene (stabilised) for synthesis 100-42-5 100mL $41.9 2024-03-01 Buy
Sigma-Aldrich 8.07679 Styrene (stabilised) for synthesis 100-42-5 1L $44.9 2024-03-01 Buy
Sigma-Aldrich 8.07679 Styrene (stabilised) for synthesis 100-42-5 2.5L $82.5 2024-03-01 Buy
Sigma-Aldrich 48347 Styrene solution certified reference material, 200?μg/mL in methanol 100-42-5 1mL $31.9 2024-03-01 Buy
Sigma-Aldrich 47745-U Styrene analytical standard 100-42-5 1kit $31.9 2024-03-01 Buy
Product number Packaging Price Buy
8.07679 100mL $41.9 Buy
8.07679 1L $44.9 Buy
8.07679 2.5L $82.5 Buy
48347 1mL $31.9 Buy
47745-U 1kit $31.9 Buy

Styrene Chemical Properties,Uses,Production


Styrene is a certain organic chemical compound having the chemical formula C8H8 and structural formula CH2=CHC6H5, also known as styrol, vinylbenzene, phenylethene,phenylethylene,styrene,styreen and so on. Its chemical structure is made up of a benzene ring bonded onto a vinyl group . At room temperature and pressure, styrene is a clear, colorless liquid. Styrene is an important monomer of synthetic rubber, adhesives and plastics, such as styrene sheet.

Chemical properties

Physical state
clear, colorless.
Colorless to yellowish, oily liquid
Extremely penetrating
Melting point/ freezing point
Boiling point or initial boiling point and boiling range
Class IC Flammable Liquid: Fl.P. at or above 22.8°C and below 37.8°C.Combustible. Gives off irritating or toxic fumes (or gases) in a fire.
Lower and upper explosion limit / flammability limit
Lower flammable limit: 0.9% by volume; Upper flammable limit: 6.8% by volume
Flash point
Auto-ignition temperature
490°C (USCG, 1999)
refractive index 
n20/D 1.546(lit.)
Storage temp.
Kinematic viscosity
0.696 cP at 25°C
In water:0.3 g/L (20 ºC),
Partition coefficient n-octanol/water (log value)
log Kow = 2.95
Vapour pressure
12.4 mm Hg ( 37.7 °C)
Density and/or relative density
Relative vapour density
3.6 (vs air)

Polymerization Reaction

Styrene is a common vinyl monomer and is the raw material for the synthesis of polystyrene. In addition to bulk polymers, copolymers can be copolymerized with other monomers, such as acrylates and acrylonitrile. It can be polymerized under free radical photoinitiator or thermal initiator, and can also autopolymerize at high temperature. As vinyl monomer, its polymerization reaction activity is lower than acrylate, methacrylate and other high activity monomer, higher than vinyl acetate and other low activity monomer.[1] In addition, styrene can also be used as a monomer for anionic polymerization, cationic polymerization and coordination polymerization.[2]


Styrene is an important monomer of synthetic rubber, adhesives and plastics. [3,4,5] It is used for the synthesis of styrene butadiene rubber and polystyrene resin, polyester glass fiber reinforced plastics and coatings. It is used for preparing polystyrene, ion exchange resin, and foam polystyrene. It is also used for copolymerization with other monomers to produce various engineering plastics, such as copolymerization of acrylonitrile and butadiene to produce ABS resin, widely used in various household appliances and industries. Copolymerization with acrylonitrile, obtained SAN is a resin with shock resistance and bright color. The SBS produced by copolymerization with butadiene is a thermoplastic rubber, which is widely used as a polyvinyl chloride and acrylic modifier. SBS and SIS thermoplastic elastomers are made with butadiene and isoprene copolymerization, and as a crosslinking monomer, styrene is used in the modification of PVC, polypropylene, and unsaturated polyester.
Syrene is used as a hard monomer for the production of styrene acrylic emulsion and solvent pressure sensitive adhesive. Emulsion adhesive and paint can be prepared by copolymerization with vinyl acetate and acrylic ester. Styrene is one of the most commonly used vinyl monomers in the scientific field, used in various modified and composite materials.[6]
In addition, a small amount of styrene is also used as perfume and other intermediates. By chloromethylation of styrene, cinnamyl chloride is used as an intermediate for the non anesthetic analgesic strong pain determination, and styrene is also used as an antitussive, expectorant and anticholinergic original medicine in stomach Changning. It can be used to synthesize anthraquinones dye intermediates , pesticide emulsifiers, and styrene phosphonic acids ore dressing agent and copper plating brighteners.[7]


In nature, styrene is very little in some plants and their fruits (such as cinnamon, coffee beans and peanuts), and there are styrene in coaltar[8]. Initially, in nineteenth Century, styrene was separated from storesin distillion. In the laboratory, styrene is usually prepared by decarboxylation of cinnamic acid. Styrene is used as raw material for industrial production,can be produced by catalytic dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene.
The most common way to produce styrene is to catalyze dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene at 550~600oC. Ethylbenzene is mixed into its own 10-16 times volume of high temperature water vapor, through solid phase catalytic bed to achieve dehydrogenation. The main by-products of the reaction are benzene and toluene.
The styrene process was developed in the 1930s by BASF (Germany) and Dow Chemical (USA).After continuous improvement, an iron series catalyst was added with a variety of cocatalysts, and selectivity of styrene was up to 95% in 1978. The catalyst added was mostly alkali metal or alkaline earth metal, such as potassium, vanadium, molybdenum, tungsten, cerium and chromium.
The ethylbenzene dehydrogenation reactor has two types: isothermal and adiabatic. The isothermal reactor is a tubular reactor, which is seldom used. Now, an adiabatic reactor is generally used.The process includes two parts: ethylbenzene dehydrogenation and Styrene Distillation Separation. At present, the most mature and developed technology of negative pressure adiabatic dehydrogenation is Lummus technology and Fina technology. The conversion of ethylbenzene in the reactor is about 35% to 40%. The dehydrogenation solution contains ethylbenzene 55% to 60%, styrene 35% to 40%, and a small amount of benzene, toluene and tar. Therefore, it is necessary to fractionate styrene products by distillation. As the boiling point of ethylbenzene and styrene is relatively close, the number of plates needed for separation is higher, and styrene is highly polymerizable at higher temperature. In order to reduce the occurrence of polymerization, the addition of hydroquinone or sulfur inhibitor can still be used to reduce pressure. The control tower temperature is not more than 90 oC.
Styrene is also commercially produced by POSM process. Styrene and propylene oxide are obtained from ethylbenzene and propylene. In this production route, ethylbenzene is oxidized to the peroxide of ethylbenzene, and then the peroxide is used to oxidize propylene to obtain 1- phenyl ethanol and propylene oxide. Finally, styrene can be obtained after dehydration of 1- phenyl ethanol. This method is characterized by the production of 0.4t propylene oxide. It does not require high temperature such as dehydrogenation, and avoids the problem of producing propylene oxide by chlorohydrin process. However, the reaction time is complex, the by-products are large, and the technological process is long. The consumption of ethylbenzene is higher than that of dehydrogenation. [7,8,9]


Health hazards: irritation and anaesthesia for the mucous membrane of the eye and upper respiratory tract. Acute poisoning: at high concentration, the eye and upper respiratory tract mucosa irritation immediately, eye pain, tears, runny, sneezing, sore throat, cough, etc., followed by headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and so on; serious can have vertigo, gait staggering. The eye can be burned when it is contaminated by styrene. Chronic effects: common neurasthenia syndrome, headache, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, abdominal distention, melancholia, forgetfulness, finger tremor, etc. Chronic exposure sometimes causes obstructive pulmonary disease.
Environmental hazards: serious harm to the environment and pollution to the water, soil and atmosphere.
Risk of explosion: This product is flammable, suspicious carcinogens, irritating. [10,11]


Styrene is Stable under room temperature, but may polymerize upon exposure to light and heat without no initiator. Normally shipped with a dissolved inhibitor. Substances to be avoided include strong acids, aluminium chloride, strong oxidizing agents, metallic salts, polymerization catalysts and accelerators.A considerable distance to ignition source is needed.[10,11]


  1. Jindong Zeng, Jian Zhu Organoselenium compoundes:development of a universal “living” free radical polymerization mediator. Polym. Chem., 2013, 4, 3453
  2. Zuren Pan polymer chemistry Industry Press 2007
  3. M.T. Ramesan Preparation and properties of different functional group containing styrene butadiene rubberJournal of the Chilean Chemical Society54(1):23-27 • 2008
  4. Richard A. Poillucci and Assistant Professor Christopher J. Hansen Reducing use of styrene monomer in unsaturated polyester resins. Technical Report No. 74,2013.University of Massachusetts Lowell
  5. Andreea Simona CURIAC, Andrei PETRE, PREPARAT.ION OF ADHESIVES FROM THE EXPANDABLE POLYSTYRENE WASTE. Journal of Young Scientist, Volume V, 2017 
  6. Czech Republic, Vojtěch, KOLÁ?OVÁ Markéta. EU SORPTION PROPERTIES OF GRAPHEN OXIDE AND STYRENE COMPOSITES FOR SR-85 AND CS-137 BRYNYCH. Oct 14th – 16th 2015, nanocon,Brno, 
  7. Styrene,
  8. Prof. Dr. Arno Behr. Styrene production from ethyl benzene, Faculty of Biochemical andChemical EngineeringTechnical Chemistry A (Chemical Process Development)
  9. Waleed Nour Eldien, Esra A. Almnem. Simulation to Production of Styrene by Catalytic Dehydrogenation of Ethyl Benzene. International Journal of Trend in Research and Development, Volume 4(4), ISSN: 2394-9333.
  10. Styrene Monomer: Environmental, Health, Safety, Transport and Storage guidelines March 3rd 2007 Styrene Producers Association CEFIC Sector Group Avenue Van Nieuwenhuyse 4/2 B1160 Brussels Belgium
  11. Jesper Kjølholt, Marlies Warming, Survey of styrene, The Danish Environmental Protection Agency Strandgade 29, 1401 Copenhagen K Denmark.


Styrene has a characteristic, sweet, balsamic, almost floral odor that is extremely penetrating. Styrene occurs naturally in plants. It was first isolated from a resin called storax obtained from the inner bark of the Oriental sweet gum tree (Liquidambar orientalis) by Bonastre. In 1839, the German apothecary Eduard Simon prepared styrene by distilling it from storax and called it styrol. Simon observed it solidifi ed into a rubbery substance after being stored and believed it had oxidized into styrol oxide. Subsequent analysis showed the solid did not contain oxygen and it was renamed metastyrol. This was the first written record of polymerization in chemistry. In 1845, the English chemist, John Blyth, and the German chemist, August Wilhelm von Hofmann (1818 1892), observed that styrene was converted to polystyrene by sunlight and that styrene could be polymerized to polystyrene by heating in the absence of oxygen. It took another 70 years for the polymerization of styrene to be described by Hermann Staudinger (1881 1965) in the 1920s. This laid the foundation for the commercial polystyrene industry that developed in the 1930s.

Chemical Properties

Styrene is a colorless or yellow, sweet odor liquid with a penetrating odor. It is produced during alkylation of benzene with ethylene. It is highly reactive and polymerizes rapidly with a violent explosive reaction. This demands proper handling, transportation, and storage by adding polymerization inhibitors in adequate quantities during these operations. Styrene monomer has been extensively used in the manufacture of chemical intermediates, fi lling components, plastics, resins, and stabilizing agents.

Physical properties

Clear, colorless, watery liquid with a penetrating or pungent rubber-like odor. Becomes yellow to yellowish-brown on exposure to air. Experimentally determined odor threshold concentrations in air for inhibited and unhibited styrene were 0.1 and 0.047 ppmv, respectively (Leonardos et al., 1969). Experimentally determined detection and recognition odor threshold concentrations were 220–640 μg/m3 (52–150 ppbv) and 64 μg/m3 (15 ppbv), respectively (Hellman and Small, 1974). At 40 °C, the average odor threshold concentration and the lowest concentration at which an odor was detected were 65 and 37 μg/L, respectively. At 25 °C, the lowest concentration at which a taste was detected was 94 μg/L, respectively (Young et al., 1996). The average least detectable odor threshold concentrations in water at 60 °C and in air at 40 °C were 3.6 and 120 μg/L, respectively (Alexander et al., 1982).


Reported found in cranberry and bilberry, currants, grape, parsley, milk and dairy products, whiskey, cocoa, coffee, tea, roasted filberts and roasted peanuts. Also reported found in fresh apple, guava fruit, pineapple, vinegar, butter, fish oil, black tea, roasted filbert, roasted peanut, soybean, plum brandy, apple brandy, Brazil nut, rice bran, Bourbon vanilla, grapes, peach, strawberry, onion, peas, bell pepper, cassia leaf, cheeses, parsley, milk, boiled and scrambled egg, lean fish, fish oil, cooked chicken and beef, rum, malt and Scotch whiskey, cider, grape, wine, cocoa, coffee, honey, cloudberry, plum, rose apple, beans, trassi, walnut, buckwheat, soursop, watercress, kiwifruit, wild rice, sapodilla fruit, nectarine, okra, crab, crayfish and pawpaw.


During the early 1940s, the development of cellular polystyrene took place. Styrofoam was discovered accidentally by Ray McIntire (1918 1996), a Dow chemical engineer in 1944. McIntire was trying to make an artificial rubber for electrical insulation. He was combining isobutene with polystyrene when the isobutene formed bubbles in the styrene, resulting in a light cellular structure. Dow registered the trademark Styrofoam in 1954, but the name is now used generically for foam cellular insulation. World demand for styrene monomer in 2006 is approximately 25 million tons. Styrene has numerous uses. The homopolymer, which is hard and clear, is used for plastic eating utensils, CD/DVD cases, and plastic hobby models. The most common forms of polystyrene is expanded polystyrene (EPS) and extruded expanded polystyrene (XEPS). EPS is produced using a mixture of polystyrene beads, pentane, and a blowing agent. The mixture is heated with steam, causing the beads to expand to 10 to 100 times their original volume as the pentane vaporizes. After this, the mixture is injected into a vacuum mold where heat and a partial vacuum cause further expansion. EPS can be molded into a variety of shapes. The pentane in the foam is replaced by air during the curing process. Extruded expanded polystyrene starts with polystyrene crystals. The crystals are mixed with additives and blowing agents in an extruder. In the extruder, the mix is heated under pressure into a plastic melt. This plastic melt expands through a die into foam. Extruded expanded polystyrene cannot be molded but is produced in sheets. At one time chlorofl uorocarbons (CFC) were the preferred blowing agents used to produce expanded polystyrenes, but they have been replaced by hydrochlorofl uorocarbons because of concerns about CFC's impact on the ozone layer (see Dichlorodifl uoromethane). Styrofoam, produced by Dow, is extruded. Coff ee cups and food packaging are technically not Styrofoam because Dow does not produce Styrofoam as molded expanded polystyrene. EPS and XEPS are used extensively for insulation in the construction industry. Polystyrene is used as a co-polymer with a number of other materials. Examples of co-polymers are acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, styrene-acrylonitrile, and styrene-butadiene rubber. Polystyrene is used in paints, coatings, adhesives, and resins.


Styrene (monomer) is a viscous, highly flammable liquid that evaporates easily and polymerizes readily to polystyrene unless a stabilizer is added. Styrene is used in multiple industries, especially in reinforced plastics (e.g., fiberglass boats), and is widely used to make plastics and rubber, packaging materials (e.g., packing peanuts ), insulation for buildings, plastic pipes, food containers (e.g., takeout containers), and carpet backing) (ATSDR, 2010).


STYRENE, is the simplest and by far the most important member of a series of aromatic monomers. Also known commercially as styrene monomer (SM), styrene is produced in large quantities for polymerization. It is a versatile monomer extensively used for the manufacture of plastics, including crystalline polystyrene, rubber-modified impact polystyrene, expandable polystyrene, acrylonitrile– butadiene–styrene copolymer (ABS), styrene–acrylonitrile resins (SAN), styrene–butadiene latex, styrene–butadiene rubber (SBR), and unsaturated polyester resins.


Styrene polymers and copolymers are usedextensively in making polystyrene plastics,polyesters, protective coatings, resins, andsynthetic rubber (styrene–butadiene rubber)..


Prepared from ethylbenzene or from phenylethanol.

Production Methods

Styrene is made by dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene at high temperature using metal catalysts: C6H5CH2CH2(g)→ C6H5CH = CH2(g) + H2(g). This is called the EB/SM (ethylbenzene/styrene monomer) process. Styrene can also be made by PO/SM (propylene oxide/styrene monomer) process). This process starts by oxidizing ethylbenzene (C6H5CH2CH2) to its hydroperoxide (C6H5CH(OOH)CH3), which is then used to oxidize propylene (CH3CH = CH2) to produce propylene oxide (CH3CH2CHO) and phenylethanol (C6H5CH(OH)CH3). The phenylethanol is then dehydrated to give styrene and water. Styrene can also be synthesized by reacting benzene and ethylene or natural gas.


ChEBI: A vinylarene that is benzene carrying a vinyl group. It has been isolated from the benzoin resin produced by Styrax species.

Aroma threshold values

Detection: 3.6 to 80 ppb

Synthesis Reference(s)

Journal of the American Chemical Society, 86, p. 4603, 1964 DOI: 10.1021/ja01075a017
The Journal of Organic Chemistry, 46, p. 691, 1981 DOI: 10.1021/jo00317a009

General Description

A clear colorless to dark liquid with an aromatic odor. Flash point 90°F. Density 7.6 lb/gal. Vapors heavier than air and irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes. Subject to polymerization. If the polymerization takes place inside a closed container, the container may rupture violently. Less dense than water and insoluble in water. Used to make plastics, paints, and synthetic rubber.

Air & Water Reactions

Highly flammable. Insoluble in water.

Reactivity Profile

STYRENE MONOMER is a colorless, oily liquid, moderately toxic, flammable. A storage hazard above 32°C, involved in several industrial explosions caused by violent, exothermic polymerization [Bond, J., Loss Prev. Bull., 1985, (065), p. 25]. Polymerization becomes self-sustaining above 95°C [MCA SD-37, 1971]. Presence of an inhibitor lessens but does not eliminate the possibility of unwanted polymerization. Violent polymerization leading to explosion may be initiated by peroxides (e.g., di-tert-butyl peroxide, dibenzoyl peroxide), butyllithium, azoisobutyronitrile. Reacts violently with strong acids (sulfuric acid, oleum, chlorosulfonic acid), strong oxidizing agents [Lewis, 3rd ed., 1993, p. 1185]. Reacts with oxygen above 40°C to form explosive peroxide [Barnes, C. E. et al., J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 1950, 72, p. 210]. Oxidizes readily in air to form unstable peroxides that may explode spontaneously [Bretherick 1979 p.151-154, 164]. Mixing styrene in equal molar portions with any of the following substances in a closed container caused the temperature and pressure to increase: chlorosulfonic acid, oleum, and sulfuric acid [NFPA 1991].


Flammable, moderate fire risk, explosive limits in air 1.1–6.1%, must be inhibited during storage. Toxic by ingestion and inhalation. Central nervous system impairment, upper respiratory tract irritant, and peripheral neuropathy. Possible carcinogen.

Health Hazard

Like all other aromatic hydrocarbons, styreneis an irritant to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes and is narcotic at high concentrations.Exposure to its vapors may cause drowsiness,nausea, headache, fatigues, and dizziness inhumans (Hamilton and Hardy 1974). Inhalation of 10,000 ppm for 30–60 minutes maybe fatal to humans.
Absorption of styrene by inhalation isthe major path of absorption into the body.Skin absorption of the liquid is also significant. According to an estimate, contactwith styrene-saturated water for an hour orbrief contact with the liquid may result inabsorption equivalent to 8 hours of inhalationof 12 ppm (Dutkiewicz and Tyras 1968). Itmay accumulate in the body due to its highsolubility in fat. This would happen whenthe metabolic pathway becomes saturated atexposure concentrations of 200 ppm (ACGIH 1986). Mandelic acid and benzoylformic acidare the major urinary metabolites. However,the excretion of mandelic acid was less whenstyrene was absorbed through the skin.
Styrene tested positive in an EPA mutagenicity study. It tested positive in a histidine reversion–Ames test, Saccharomycescerevisiae gene conversion, in vitro humanlymphocyte micronucleus, and Drosophilamelanogaster sex-linked lethal tests (NIOSH1986). Carcinogenicity of styrene in humansis not known. There is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in animals for both the monomerand the polymer..

Fire Hazard

Behavior in Fire: Vapor is heavier than air and may travel considerable distance to a source of ignition and flash back. At elevated temperatures such as in fire conditions, polymerization may take place which may lead to container explosion.

Flammability and Explosibility


Contact allergens

The presence of styrene in packaged foods is due primarily to leaching of monomer from polystyrene containers. Polystyrene (PS) is widely used in the manufacturing of food contact materials such as trays for meat, cookies, and candies with disposable plates, cups, etc. and about 50 % of the consumption of PS was related to food packaging and food service articles. During the production process the styrene monomer can become occluded in PS products and may migrate out of these materials into food. The rate of migration of styrene monomer from polystyrene containers depends mainly on the lipophilicity of the food, surface area of the container per volume of food, duration of contact, and food temperature.
Styrene was found in 24 food contact materials from different categories (extruded polystyrene foam, expandable polystyrene, high-impacted polystyrene) at concentrations ranging from 9.3 to 3100 mg/kg, with a mean concentration of 340 mg/kg. This concentration is below the USFDA limit for styrene in food packaging materials which are 5000 mg/kg for fatty foods and 10000 mg/kg for aqueous foods. Moreover, styrene dimers and trimers, which are also residual materials produced during polymerisation, have been detected. Styrene was found in various foods such as yoghurt, croissants, cookies, raw chicken, and raw beef held in contact with PS packaging (meat trays, cookie trays, and chocolate candy trays) at concentrations ranging from 2.6 ng/g in raw chicken to 163 ng/g in sandwich cookies. Styrene is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Several international brands start to phase out polystyrene foam packaging from their products.

Safety Profile

Confirmed carcinogen. Experimental poison by ingestion, inhalation, and intravenous routes. Moderately toxic experimentally by intraperitoneal route. Mildly toxic to humans by inhalation. An experimental teratogen. Human systemic effects by inhalation: eye and olfactory changes. It can cause irritation and violent itching of the eyes @200 ppm, lachrymation, and severe human eye injuries. Its toxic effects are usually transient and result in irritation and possible narcosis. Experimental reproductive effects. Human mutation data reported. A human skin irritant. An experimental skin and eye irritant. The monomer has been involved in several industrial explosions. It is a storage hazard above 32°C. A very dangerous fire hazard when exposed to flame, heat, or oxidants. Explosive in the form of vapor when exposed to heat or flame. Reacts with oxygen above 40°C to form a heat-sensitive explosive peroxide. Violent or explosive polymerization may be initiated by alkahmetal-graphite composites, butyllithium, dibenzoyl peroxide, other initiators (e.g., azoisobutyronitrile, di-tert-butyl peroxide). Reacts violently with chlorosulfonic acid, oleum, sulfuric acid, chlorine + iron(IⅡ) chloride (above 50°C). May ignite when heated with air + polymerizing polystyrene. Can react vigorously with oxidizing materials. To fight fire, use foam, CO2, dry chemical. When heated to decomposition it emits acrid smoke and irritating fumes

Potential Exposure

Styrene is used in the production of plastics and polystyrene resins. It is also used in combination with 1,3-butadiene or acrylonitrile to form copolymer elastomers, butadiene-styrene rubber; and acrylonitrilebutadiene-styrene. It is also used in the manufacture of protective coatings; resins, polyesters; in making insulators and in drug manufacture.


Styrene is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on limited evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans, sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals, and supporting data on mechanisms of carcinogenesis.


Based on laboratory analysis of 7 coal tar samples, styrene concentrations ranged from ND to 2,500 ppm (EPRI, 1990). A high-temperature coal tar contained styrene at an average concentration of 0.02 wt % (McNeil, 1983).
Styrene occurs naturally in benzoin, rosemary, sweetgum, cassia, Oriental styrax, and Peru balsam (Duke, 1992). Identified as one of 140 volatile constituents in used soybean oils collected from a processing plant that fried various beef, chicken, and veal products (Takeoka et al., 1996).
Drinking water standard (final): MCLG: 0.1 mg/L; MCL: 0.1 mg/L. In addition, a DWEL of 7 mg/L was recommended (U.S. EPA, 2000).

Environmental Fate

Biological. Fu and Alexander (1992) observed that despite the high degree of adsorption onto soils, styrene was mineralized to carbon dioxide under aerobic conditions. Rates of mineralization from highest to lowest were sewage sludge, Lima soil (pH 7.23, 7.5% organic matter), groundwater (pH 8.25, 30.5 mg/L organic matter), Beebe Lake water from Ithaca, NY (pH 7.5, 50 to 60 mg/L organic matter), aquifer sand (pH 6.95, 0.4% organic matter), Erie silt loam (pH 4.87, 5.74% organic matter). Styrene did not mineralize in sterile environmental samples. Oié et al. (1979) reported BOD and COD values of 1.29 and 2.80 g/g using filtered effluent from a biological sanitary waste treatment plant. These values were determined using a standard dilution method at 20 °C and stirred for a period of 5 d. When a sewage seed was used in a separate screening test, a BOD value of 2.45 g/g was obtained. The ThOD for styrene is 3.08 g/g. Photolytic. Irradiation of styrene in solution forms polystyrene. In a benzene solution, irradiation of polystyrene will result in depolymerization to presumably styrene (Calvert and Pitts, 1966).
Atkinson (1985) reported a photooxidation reaction rate of 5.25 x 10-11 cm3/molecule?sec for styrene and OH radicals in the atmosphere. A reaction rate of 1.8 x 10-4 L/molecule?sec at 303 K was reported for the reaction of styrene and ozone in the vapor phase (Bufalini and Altshuller, 1965).
Chemical/Physical. In the dark, styrene reacted with ozone forming benzaldehyde, formaldehyde, benzoic acid, and trace amounts of formic acid (Grosjean, 1985). Polymerizes readily in the presence of heat, light, or a peroxide catalyst. Polymerization is exothermic and may become explosive (NIOSH, 1997).


Styrene is stored in a flammable liquid storagecabinet, separated from oxidizing substances An inhibitor such as 4-tert-butylcatechol intrace amounts is added to the monomer toprevent polymerization. It is shipped in glassbottles, metal cans, drums, and tank cars.


UN2055 Styrene monomer, stabilized, Hazard Class: 3; Labels: 3-Flammable liquid.

Purification Methods

Styrene is difficult to purify and keep pure. 25 1.5441. Usually it contains added inhibitors (such as a trace of hydroquinone). Wash it with aqueous NaOH to remove inhibitors (e.g. tert-butanol), then with water, dry it for several hours with MgSO4 and distil it at 25o under reduced pressure in the presence of an inhibitor (such as 0.005% p-tert-butylcatechol). It can be stored at -78o. It can also be stored and kept anhydrous with Linde type 5A molecular sieves, CaH2, CaSO4, BaO or sodium, being fractionally distilled, and distilled in a vacuum line just before use. Alternatively styrene (and its deuterated derivative) are passed through a neutral alumina column before use [Woon et al. J Am Chem Soc 108 7990 1986, Collman J Am Chem Soc 108 2588 1986]. [Beilstein 5 IV 1334.]

Toxicity evaluation

There has been a general belief that SO is responsible for the bronchiolar tumors (mice) and nasal toxicity (mice and rats) induced by styrene. However, the metabolism of styrene to ring-oxidized metabolites (e.g., 4-vinylphenol) by the CYP2F isoform found in the lung may play a more predominant role than previously thought. CYP2E1 is generally considered the cytochrome P450 isoform primarily responsible for the metabolism of styrene to SO in mice and rats. However, mouse lung toxicity is not attenuated in CYP2E1 knockout mice. Another cytochrome P450 isoform, CYP2F2, is preferentially expressed in mouse Clara cells, which are enriched in the bronchiolar region of the lung where tumors occur. It was recently reported that Clara cell toxicity induced by both styrene and SO in wild-type mice was completely abolished in CYP2F2 knockout mice. Under this mechanism, the cytotoxicity produced by ring-oxidized metabolites of CYP2F2 is thought to lead to increased cell proliferation and the slow development of bronchiolar tumors in the mouse. The absence of tumors in the rat is consistent with the lower level of ringoxidized metabolites produced in this species by comparable styrene exposures, and the lower levels of CYP2F4 in the terminal bronchioles of rats. Humans may be less susceptible than mice to the development of lung tumors since the CYP2F isoform in human lung (CYP2F1) is present at a very low level and is not suspected of catalyzing significant styrene metabolism, observations consistent with the trace levels of ringoxidized metabolites detected in humans. Work in this area is ongoing. The mechanism for the neurotoxic effects of styrene has not been established.


Styrene May form explosive mixture with air. A storage hazard above 31C. Upon heating to 200C, styrene polymerizes to form polystyrene, a plastic. Before entering confined space where this chemical may be present, check to make sure that an explosive concentration does not exist. Store in a cool, dry area away from oxidizers, catalysts for vinyl polymers; peroxides, strong acids; aluminum chloride. May polymerize if contaminated, subjected to heat; under the influence of light; and on contact with many compounds, such as oxygen, oxidizing agents; peroxides and strong acids. Usually contains an inhibitor, such as tert-butylcatechol. Corrodes copper and copper alloys. Attacks some plastics, rubber, and coatings.

Waste Disposal

Dissolve or mix the material with a combustible solvent and burn in a chemical incinerator equipped with an afterburner and scrubber. All federal, state, and local environmental regulations must be observed. In some cases, recovery and recycle of styrene monomer is economic and the technology is available.

Synthesis of Styrene from Styrene oxide
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