What is Styrene, and how did it get into my body?

What is Styrene, and how did it get into my body?

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What is Styrene, and how did it get into my body?

Dr. Jennifer Salcido

Styrene is a flammable colorless liquid derived from petroleum and used in the production of plastics, rubbers, resins and fiberglass. Most commonly it is found in Styrofoam. While many people are familiar with Styrofoam as an insulator in food and drink containers, many do not realize it is also used as insulation for homes. In addition it is found in appliances, countertops, disinfectants, automobile body parts, boats, tires, medical equipment, adhesives, paints, inks, packaging, photocopiers, laser printers, packaged foods, tobacco smoke, and automobile exhaust.

Styrene has been found in human blood, breath, breast milk, and adipose tissue. Why is this a problem? Short-term styrene acts as an irritant to the eyes, mucous membranes, respiratory system and gastrointestinal system. Long-term styrene disrupts the nervous system causing fatigue, weakness, depression, hearing loss, visual disturbance, decreased sense of smell, peripheral neuropathy, impaired balance and coordination, slowed reaction time and decreased attention and memory.   Animal studies have shown that it damages the sperm, liver, brain, kidneys, nerves, and the organ of Corti which is responsible for hearing. Both animal and human studies have found that styrene damages DNA and is a likely carcinogen.

I was shocked to find that the FDA allows styrene to be used as a flavoring agent. In addition to ingesting styrene we can also absorb it through our skin, but since it is a volatile organic compound we most commonly inhale it. In 2006 in the state of California more than 2 million pounds of styrene were released into the air. Concentrations are much higher indoors than outdoors. Urban areas have higher concentrations of styrene than rural and suburban areas.

While the demand for styrene continues to rise each year many cities are starting to ban Styrofoam including Washington D.C., Minneapolis, San Francisco, and most recently New York City. New York City collects more than 30,000 tons of single use Styrofoam each year. City schools throw away 800,000 Styrofoam trays daily. Unfortunately Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and contaminates soil though the majority of it ends up in the ocean as floating marine debris. Eighty percent of floating marine debris is made up of Styrofoam, plastic bags, and plastic fragments. Marine life often become ill when they mistake it for food. Styrene has been found in high concentrations not only in samples of water from the ocean but also in samples of sand taken from beaches.

So what can you do? First of all avoid Styrofoam, rubber, resins, and plastics whenever possible. Second make sure you have adequate glutathione levels and if not supplement with a liposomal or intravenous glutathione. Studies have shown that glutathione decreases the harmful effects of styrene. Third increase ventilation by opening your windows or even better buy an air purifier that contains a carbon filter as this will trap styrene as well as many other contaminants. Finally, monitor your exposure with the Genova NutrEval or Toxic Effects Core Profile.

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Jennifer I. Salcido, ND has special interests and expertise in women’s health, detoxification, autism, lyme disease, pediatrics and wellness therapies.  She uses bio-identical hormones, intravenous nutrition, counseling, detoxification, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and more. Dr. Salcido received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Jamestown University with honors in 1998 and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University, Kenmore, WA in 2006. 

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