Styrene (chemical formula: C8H8) is a colorless, oily organic compound that serves as a precursor to polystyrenes, plastics, and synthetic rubber. It is a derivative of benzene. Together with divinylbenzene (for cross-linking), it is the basis of many synthetic ion exchangers. It was first isolated in 1839 by the German apothecary, Eduard Simon, from the resin of Liquidambar styraciflua (commonly called the American sweetgum tree, from the taxonomic plant family Altingiaceae). Apart from this plant, styrene was also found in certain plants such as cinnamon, peanuts, and coffee beans, albeit in small quantities. Eventually, styrene is produced synthetically for its use in the plastic industry. Styrene is presumed to be a carcinogen. In humans, it is metabolized into styrene oxide, which is mutagenic and possibly carcinogenic. Synonym: vinylbenzene, phenylethene, ethenylbenzene.
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