Styrene oxide

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Styrene oxide
Styrene oxide.svg
Preferred IUPAC name
Other names
Phenyloxirane; Epoxystyrene; Styryl oxide; Phenylethylene oxide
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.002.252
Molar mass 120.151 g·mol−1
Appearance Colorless to light yellow liquid
Density 1.052 g/mL
Melting point −37 °C (−35 °F; 236 K)
Boiling point 194 °C (381 °F; 467 K)
Safety data sheet Oxford University MSDS
Harmful (XN); Corrosive (C)
R-phrases (outdated) R20 R22 R34 R36 R37 R38
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Styrene oxide is an epoxide derived from styrene. It can be prepared by epoxidation of styrene with peroxybenzoic acid, in the Prilezhaev reaction:[1]


Styrene oxide is slightly soluble in water. A trace amount of acid in water causes hydrolysis to racemic phenylethyleneglycol via aryl cation. If the amount of water is not sufficient, acid-catalyzed isomerization for phenylacetaldehyde will occur.[2]

Styrene oxide in the body is metabolized to mandelic acid, phenyl glyoxylic acid, benzoic acid and hippuric acid.

Stereospecific reaction[edit]

Since styrene oxide has a chiral center at the benzylic carbon atom, there are (R)-styrene oxide and (S)-styrene oxide. If optically pure reagent is used, only one optically pure compound will be obtained.


Styrene oxide is a main metabolite of styrene in humans or animals, resulting from oxidation by cytochrome P450. It is considered possibly carcinogenic from gavaging significant amounts into mice and rats.[3] Styrene oxide is subsequently hydrolyzed in vivo to styrene glycol by epoxide hydrolase.[4]

Styrene oxide has a chiral center and thus two enantiomers. It has been reported that the two enantiomers had different toxicokinetics and toxicity[citation needed]. It was reported that the (R)-styrene oxide was preferentially formed in mice, especially in the lung, whereas the (S)-styrene oxide was preferentially generated in rats. In human volunteers, the cumulative excretion of the (S)-enantiomer of styrene glycol and mendelic acid were higher than the R form after exposure to styrene. In human liver microsomes, cytochrome P450-mediated styrene oxidation showed the production of more S enantiomer relative to the R enantiomer. It was also found that (S)-styrene oxide was preferentially hydrolyzed than the R enantiomer in human liver microsomes. Animal studies have shown that the (R)-enantiomer of styrene oxide was more toxic than the (S)-enantiomer in mice.


  1. ^ Harold Hibbert and Pauline Burt (1941). "Styrene Oxide". Organic Syntheses.; Collective Volume, 1, p. 494
  2. ^ Verfahren zur Herstellung von Phenylacetaldehyde, BASF-Patent DE3546372A1 vom 2. Juli 1987
  3. ^ EPA Styrene Oxide evaluation
  4. ^ Kenneth C. Liebman (1975). "Metabolism and toxicity of styrene" (PDF). Environmental Health Perspectives. 11: 115–119. doi:10.2307/3428333. JSTOR 3428333.[permanent dead link]