California judge rules against listing styrene as carcinogenic

A Sacramento judge sided with the styrene industry and against state environmental officials on Wednesday in ruling that the chemical doesn't have to be listed under Proposition 65 as a cause of cancer.

Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang said the listing would have had a "devastating effect" on a $28 billion industry that uses the product widely in food packaging, as well as in thousands of plastic items ranging from bicycle helmets to synthetic marble.

In her tentative ruling, Chang specifically cited styrenic plastics as being crucial to the transportation and sale of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Those three industries are worth more than $1.6 billion to California growers, the judge said, ruling in a case filed by the Arlington, Va., based Styrene Information and Research Center.

"The court agrees with plaintiff that the designation of a product as a carcinogen, particularly associated with food, could have a devastating effect on that product's use," Chang wrote. "Such a designation would likely have the intended 'stigmatizing' effect.' "

Chang further ruled that "once identified as a carcinogen, it would be difficult to undo such a designation in the event that plaintiff were to prevail in this litigation."

The judge found that there is no "known" evidence that styrene is a carcinogen.

The state's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment proposed the Proposition 65 listing of the substance based on the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer that styrene is "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

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