Styrene rapidly decays in the atmosphere, and does not persist in soil or water. However, plant neighbours may complain if styrene emissions are responsible for nuisance odors. People can detect styrene at very low concentrations. While subjects in laboratory studies may be able to detect styrene odor at levels as low as 0.02 ppm, people in their daily lives are not likely to detect styrene odor at levels lower than 0.2 ppm.
The majority of composites manufacturing operations can prevent nuisance odor problems using a simple hierarchy of controls: 1) use low-emitting processes and materials; 2) prevent ground-level releases of styrene vapours by using ventilation, keeping doors to production areas closed to keep plants under negative pressure, and exhaust the ventilated air at roof-level; and 3) use taller stacks if needed (for example, for plants located near residences or in hilly terrain).
Miles Fiberglass cares about its community and environment. We have been in compliance and held air and water permits for over 30 years. A majority of our employees live locally in the same area as our facility. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality requires permit holders to submit and pay on air emissions for the potential to emit, meaning if you were running full capacity 7 days a week, 24 hrs a day. For Miles this is 46 tons per location when our actual emissions range from 17-22 tons a year per location.
In the last 10 years Miles has reduced its air emissions per location by 12-15 tons by implementing the following:
Miles does not have a Hazardous Waste Permit due to the fact we are conditionally exempt. We recycle our hazardous waste by recycling all of our acetone. The still bottoms are used to manufacture recycled road barriers. Acetone is not a hazardous waste but is a VOC due to flammability only, not a hazard air pollutant.
The natural photo-oxidation of styrene in the atmosphere results in its complete decomposition to carbon dioxide and water within approximately 24 hours. Transport of styrene through the air for appreciable distances (or its potential entry into water and soil) is unlikely in significant amounts from point-source emissions to the atmosphere (e.g., manufacturing facility emissions).
In a SIRC-sponsored study, Dr. Martin Alexander of Cornell University demonstrated that styrene rapidly breaks down (within twelve hours) to carbon dioxide and water under aerobic conditions in soil or water (Alexander 1997).  The potential for anaerobic biodegradation exists, but the few data available on anaerobic biodegradation suggest that the compound may persist somewhat longer in subsoils, anoxic aquifers, septic tanks, or sludge.
With the exception of infrequent situations, such as a spill following a transportation incident, measured environmental concentrations of styrene in the air, water and soil are too low to cause effects on mammals, non-mammals, or microorganisms. Styrene’s atmospheric reactivity and biodegradability keep exposure levels below that required for toxicity; the compound’s properties make bio concentration at harmful levels unlikely.
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