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Serious workplace illness can be caused by exposure to styrene

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the American Board of Industrial Hygiene recently underscored the importance of protecting workers against volatile organic compounds such as styrene, which is highly flammable. Exposure to such hazardous substances can cause workplace illness that could be debilitating or even fatal. Styrene is used in the manufacture of multiple products, and employees in some New York factories may not even be aware of the potential dangers.

Styrene vapors can be inhaled, and in liquid form, contact with a worker’s skin can result in severe burn injuries. OSHA says styrene exposure can affect the central nervous system causing fatigue, headaches, moments of confusion and dizziness similar to that experienced with intoxication. It can prevent workers from concentrating, and this may lead to workplace accidents. Long-term exposure can negatively affect kidney function, and it can cause liver damage, brain disease, impaired hearing, occupational asthma and more.

This dangerous compound is used in the manufacture of a host of other materials. The list includes rubber, latex, plastics and fiberglass. Manufacturing of hoses, tires and tanks also involves the use of styrene, along with paint, coatings, carpet backing and metal cleaners. It even forms part of the manufacturing of toners for photocopiers and printer cartridges for computers.

These are but some of the manufacturing processes that expose New York workers to this volatile organic compound. Although it is the responsibility of employers to protect their employees from occupational diseases and injuries, many workers suffer the consequences of exposure to hazardous substances. Medical expenses and lost income due to absence from work may be recoverable through the benefits offered by the workers’ compensation insurance program. However, proving a workplace illness to be work-related can be difficult and may be best accomplished by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

Source:, “Preventing Occupational Exposure Risks to Styrene“, Oct. 5, 2016

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