The chemical styrene, which is commonly found in coffee cups and take-out containers, has made it onto the list of a new U.S. government report. Styrene was joined by captafol, cobalt-tungsten carbide (in powder or hard metal form), certain inhalable glass wool fibers, o-nitrotoluene and riddelliine, according to experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These are just some of the 240 substances that are “reasonably anticipated” to be carcinogenic.
The government report says that the greatest styrene exposure comes from smoking cigarettes, roughly 10 times more than that from all other sources, including air, water, soil and food combined. Styrene is a widely used in products that contain insulation, fiberglass, plastic pipes, automobile parts, drinking cups and other food containers and carpet backing.
High levels of styrene exposure, like that of employees who work in the plastics industry, experience damage in white blood cells (lymphocytes) and may have an increased risk of lymphohematopoietic cancer (leukemia and lymphoma). Research also shows that there may be a risk of esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer among styrene-exposed workers.
Also, the report issued its strongest warning about two other carcinogenic chemicals, formaldehyde (widely used as a preservative) and a botanical known as aristolochic acids. Formaldehyde is colorless and it is a strong-smelling flammable chemical used to make resins for household items including composite wood products, paper product coatings, plastics, synthetic fibers, and textile finishes. It is also used in medical laboratories, mortuaries and in some hair straightening products as a preservative. Formaldehyde, a long standing chemical on the substance list, has been shown to increase the risk of nasal cancer and certain types of rare cancers (nasopharyngeal, sinonasal and myeloid leukemia).
Studies on aristolochic acids have shown high rates of bladder or upper urinary tract cancer in people with kidney or renal disease. They had consumed botanical products containing aristolochic acids which can be purchased online in the form of herbal treatments for arthritis, gout and inflammation.
The one thing that has been stressed by the federal panelists is that the public not panic by the report on carcinogenic chemicals. “A listing in the report does not by itself mean that a substance will cause cancer,” John Bucher, associate director of the NTP, told Bloomberg News in a conference call with reporters. There are a number of factors that can affect whether or not a person could develop cancer due to these chemicals. These factors include the amount, exposure duration and each person’s susceptibility to the carcinogenic chemical. To read more about this topic. click here.