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Assessment of the impact of the IARC Monograph Vol. 121 on the safety of the substance styrene (FCM No 193) for its use in plastic food contact materials

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Competing interests: R. Franz declared that Fraunhofer institute at which he was employed provides advisory services to private business operators active in the sector on food contact materials. In line with EFSA's Policy on Independence (…) and the Decision of the Executive Director on Competing Interest Management (…), a waiver was granted to R. Franz regarding his participation to the EFSA's Working Group on Food Contact Materials (FCM WG) in accordance with Article 21 of the Decision of the Executive Director on Competing Interest Management. Pursuant to Article 21(6) of the above‐mentioned Decision, the involvement of R. Franz is authorised as member in the FCM WG, allowing him to take part in the discussions and in the drafting phase of the scientific output, but he is not allowed to be, or act as, a chairman, a vice‐chairman or rapporteur of the working group.


The EFSA Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes and Processing Aids (CEP) was requested by the European Commission to re‐evaluate the safety of styrene (FCM No 193) for use in plastic food contact materials (FCM) following the classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’. The IARC Monograph pertains to hazard identification, based on studies on high‐dose occupational exposures by inhalation and animal studies, also mainly by inhalation. The Panel considered that the IARC conclusions cannot be directly applied to the evaluation of risks for consumers from the oral exposure to styrene, but also concluded that, based on the data provided in the IARC Monograph and by the industry, a concern for genotoxicity associated with oral exposure to styrene cannot be excluded. The migration of styrene into foods packed in styrenic plastics is below 10 μg/kg for the majority of the foods, but up to 230 μg/kg was reported. Migration tends to be high for contact with fatty foods, and/or with high surface to volume ratios of the FCM. Dietary exposure of the consumers to styrene migrating from styrenic plastics was estimated in the order of 0.1 μg/kg body weight (bw) per day. It is in the same range as exposure from styrene present in foods as such. The dietary exposure (food component plus migration from styrenic plastics) is similar or lower than that by inhalation in the general population. Taking the human exposure data into account, the Panel concluded that a systematic review of genotoxicity and mechanistic data, comparative toxicokinetics and analysis of species differences is required for assessing the safety of styrene for its use in FCM.