The only surprise here is that after years of delaying tactics by the plastics and chemical industries, the U.S. Government finally decided to tell its citizens that two very common compounds – styrene and formaldehyde – are carginogens. Rob Stein reports for the Washington Post:
Styrene, which is used to make those ubiquitous white foam coffee cups, food containers and many other products, is probably a human carcinogen, the federal government declared Friday.
The declaration came in the government’s latest update of its official list of known or possible carcinogens. It categorized formaldehyde, a chemical widely used to make many products, and a family of substances found in some herbal remedies as known carcinogens.
Officials stressed that the listings do not mean that any exposure to the substances will cause cancer. Instead, it means that the latest scientific evidence indicates that the agents can cause cancer in some people exposed to enough of the compounds under the right circumstances. Most of the evidence for a cancer risk came from people exposed to relatively high levels in industrial settings.
“A listing . . . does not by itself mean that a substance will cause cancer,” John Bucher, associate director of the National Toxicology Program, which issues the list, said during a briefing for reporters. “Many factors, including the amount and duration of exposure and an individual’s susceptibility to a substance, affect whether a person will develop cancer.”
The listings do not trigger any immediate new restrictions on the substances, but other government agencies may use the information in the future as part of their regulatory decisions, Bucher said. In the meantime, individuals can use the list to make personal choices, he said…
[continues in the Washington Post]