Plastic and the Ocean

A styrene metabolite in my pee?

Recently, I took a urine organic acids test, which measures metabolites – the end breakdown of various chemical substances  – in the urine.

The test is not intended to measure levels of environmental toxins in the body.  It just happens to measure mandelic acid, a  metabolite from the breakdown of styrene.  High mandelic acid usually occurs from exposure to styrene.

I was surprised to find that my level of mandelic acid was slightly elevated.  This might be due to the normal metabolism of the neurotransmitters phenylalanine or tyrosine since the levels were not extremely high, but it got me wondering.

What Is Styrene and Why Is It a Problem?

Styrene (vinyl benzene) is commonly found in plastic and, of course, Styrofoam.  On June 10, 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen“.

US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) studies on Americans have shown that 100% of human fat samples contain styrene.  Once in the body, there’s no mechanism for getting all of the styrene out.

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