US study suggests that employee training can reduce styrene emissions by more than 40%

Engineers investigating the impact of an employee training programme on styrene emissions, a precursor to ozone, have found that emission levels of the chemical can be reduced by up to 42.5%. The Purdue University engineers have been working with companies based in northeastern Indiana, examining a training programme run by the Composites Fabricators Association.


Styrene is a suspected carcinogen and is used to manufacture a diverse range of items from drinking cups to auto and boat parts. The EPA classifies styrene as a volatile organic compound, meaning that it tends to combine with other chemicals to form new compounds. One compound formed from styrene is ozone, a key component of smog.

The EPA has altered the methodology it uses to estimate annual styrene emissions, which will result in an almost doubling of emission level estimations. The statistics for 1998 emissions will be the first set to reflect the more stringent methodology.

Companies concentrated in northeastern Indiana contribute the majority of the state’s estimated 4 million pounds of annual styrene emissions. Many of the Indiana companies affected by the styrene emission guidelines have fewer than 100 employees and therefore often lack the resources to cope with large-scale emission reductions. As a result, a consortium was formed consisting of about 30 companies, the Purdue Institute of Purdue University and the Greater Elkhart County Chamber of Commerce. The consortium’s aim is to research pollution-cutting measures, provide evidence that the measures work and pay for necessary employee training. The Indiana Department of Commerce has funded the consortium with a $90,000 grant.

Thus far, engineers have found that the Composites Fabricators Association’s training programme results in:

  • a reduction of 21.7% in styrene emissions during spraying
  • a 19% reduction in the use of styrene

Overall, both reductions result in a 42.4% reduction in styrene emissions.

The techniques taught in the training programme include:

  • ways to set up spraying work to minimise the amount of spraying needed
  • new spraying techniques that use larger droplets of styrene

A final report on the emission reductions of the training programme will be published after further tests at the Purdue Institute’s Coating Applications Research Laboratory.

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