An analysis of exposure to styrene in the reinforced plastic boat-making industry

Am J Ind Med. 1985;8(3):183-92. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700080304.


To evaluate patterns of occupational exposure to styrene monomer in the boat-building industry, we conducted industrial hygiene surveys in seven fiberglass-reinforced plastic boat-fabrication plants. A total of 397 personal breathing zone air samples were collected on workers in four key job categories: gel coating and hull, deck, and small-parts lamination. We found that exposure to styrene in 234 (59%) of the personal samples exceeded the NIOSH-recommended time-weighted average (TWA) standard of 50 parts per million (ppm), and 96 (24%) of these samples exceeded the OSHA eight-hour TWA permissible exposure limit of 100 ppm. From highest to lowest average exposure potential, the job categories ranked in the following order: hull lamination (range 2-183 ppm, mean 78 ppm), deck lamination (range 12-160 ppm, mean 73 ppm), gel coating (range 5-94 ppm, mean 48 ppm), and small-parts lamination (range 9-130 ppm, mean 45 ppm). The former two categories composed a higher-exposure group, and the latter two tended to form a lower-exposure group. Exposures in these jobs appear to be proportional to resin consumption. Statistical analyses indicated that the parameter that most affects exposure potential is job category. Within a job category, part size, configuration, and surface area are important determinants of exposure. The principal reason for high exposures was the absence of control technologies and, in particular, the absence of adequate ventilation.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis
  • Glass*
  • Humans
  • Maximum Allowable Concentration
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S.
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Occupations
  • Plastics*
  • Resins, Synthetic / toxicity
  • Ships*
  • Styrene
  • Styrenes / toxicity*
  • United States
  • Ventilation


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Plastics
  • Resins, Synthetic
  • Styrenes
  • fiberglass
  • Styrene