The Effect of Styrene on Encephalopathy Patients

By: Khushi Sheth


When marketing products, spokesmen have always geared their advertisements towards consumer convenience. In an effort to keep up with the flow of demand by consumers, industries designed their products to be easily disposable and in doing so neglected human health hazards and environmental dangers. Some of the most disposable products made for public use include latex gloves, plastic packaging, and styrofoam cups and containers, which are made with a highly genotoxic and carcinogenic chemical called styrene.


Styrene is a highly flammable liquid that is often turned to polystyrene, the material used to make plastics and rubbers. It is also found in cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust and has the chemical composition C8H8. According to a study done on animals by The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the inhalation of styrene can cause alterations in the lining of the nose and severely damage the liver. An increased dosage of styrene has even been linked to impaired learning disabilities such as encephalopathy. Some long-term symptoms include an inability to reason and concentrate, memory loss, seizures, and bipolar disorders. A low exposure to styrene may cause gastrointestinal problems, skin irritation, and respiratory effects. While treatment options are limited to handling certain symptoms with anti-seizure medication, removing the issue at its roots would prove to be the safest option in preventing a higher risk of brain diseases through an intense procedure.


Since encephalopathy is a broad term, some examples of brain diseases in patients include chronic traumatic, glycine, Hashimoto, hepatic, hypertensive, hypoxic ischemic, toxic-metabolic, infectious, uremic, and Wernicke.


Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is associated with nerve damage as a result of multiple traumas or injuries to the brain. Glycine encephalopathy is a genetic condition correlated to the high levels of the amino acid Glycine in the brain. Hashimoto’s encephalopathy is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to hurt the thyroid gland, which is responsible for producing regulating hormones. Hepatic encephalopathy occurs when the liver isn’t functioning properly, causing toxins to accumulate in the liver that eventually reach the brain. Hypertensive encephalopathy is due to high blood pressure and can lead to brain swelling if left untreated. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is caused when there isn’t enough oxygen-flow to the brain, resulting in permanent dysfunction. Toxic-metabolic encephalopathy is when there is a chemical imbalance between the electrolytes and hormones in the body due to infections or organ failures. Infectious encephalopathies are prion diseases which have the ability to mutate and cause gradual brain damage. Uremic encephalopathy can cause forgetfulness or deep coma as a result of kidney failure. In this case the uremic toxins have accumulated in the blood instead of being properly disposed of by metabolic processes. Wernicke encephalopathy is a result of Vitamin B-1 deficiency from long-term alcoholism and a poor diet.


Patients with cognitive defects that have exposure to O45-1 Occupational solvents with styrene are more likely to develop encephalopathy and possibly dementia. Short-term effects will turn into life-changing issues if treatments are not made. Patients could die of seizures, carcinogenic poisoning, etc.


Educational Content

Q: Are there any traces of styrene found in nature?

A: While most styrene contents are derived from the air near hazardous waste sites, which is man-made, low quantities of styrene are also found organically in some produce, nuts, and beverages.


Q: How is encephalopathy detected differently from other neurological disorders?

A: Blood tests, a spinal tap, an MRI, and an electroencephalogram test are all ways of detecting different types of the brain disorders mentioned in the blog post.


Citations

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatic-encephalopathy

  2. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/all-disorders/encephalopathy-information-page

  3. https://oem.bmj.com/content/73/Suppl_1/A85.1

  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978044462627100007X#!

  5. https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/styrene

  6. Image Credit: Flickr @SciTechTrend https://www.flickr.com/photos/scitechtrend/25471176377/in/photolist-ENNrkp-21H5tWU-GimHfm-234Nwuc-21H5dBA-ENQRFe-21FeGhE-22uVt17-21H7UBS-234SPVX-21H6pvN-23o93PU


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