Ground Report | News Desk
In Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, more than 11 people have died due to poisonous gas leaks. Over 800 people have been admitted to the hospital due to breathing problems. The condition of many of the sick remains critical. They also include children.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), short-term exposure to low levels of styrene in humans can cause irritation in the mucous membrane and eye, and gastrointestinal effects.
On 10 June 2011, the U.S. National Toxicology Program has described styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” But what is styrene?
What is styrene?
Styrene, chemically known as ethylbenzene, is a synthetic chemical which has the texture of a colourless liquid. Styrene is commonly used in the manufacture of plastic products using in food packaging, rubber, plastic, insulation, fiberglass, pipes and automobile parts.
Also called PVC gas, polystyrene is found in different forms, Styrene or Polystyrene Plastic, Polystyrene Foam (often referred to as Styrofoam), and Polystyrene Film.
Clear plastic drinking cups are made of polystyrene. So are a lot of the molded parts on the inside of your car, like the radio knobs. Polystyrene is also used in toys, and the housings of things like hairdryers, computers, and kitchen appliances.
Polystyrene is a vinyl polymer. Structurally, it is a long hydrocarbon chain, with a phenyl group attached to every other carbon atom. Polystyrene is produced by free radical vinyl polymerization, from the monomer styrene.
What happens when someone is exposed to Styrene?
Long-term exposure to styrene:
How can styrene enter and leave body?
Enter your body
Inhalation: When you breathe air containing styrene, most of the styrene will rapidly enter your body through your lungs.
Ingestion: Styrene in food or water may also rapidly enter your body through the digestive tract.
Dermal contact: A very small amount may enter through your skin when you come into contact with liquids containing styrene.
Leave your body
Once in your body, styrene is broken down into other chemicals. Most of these other chemicals leave your body in the urine within few days according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
How can styrene affect children?
This section discusses potential health effects in humans from exposures during the period from conception to maturity at 18 years of age. There are no studies evaluating the effects of styrene exposure on children or immature animals. It is likely that children would have the same health effects as adults According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
What is the treatment?
The only way to treat the effects of the gas is to wash the skin and eyes with copious amounts of water and provide breathing support in case of ingestion.