PAHs are found in air, water, snow, soil, vegetation, can travel thousands of miles and can persist in the environment for years. In previous blog I introduced PAHs and in this blog I am writing something about health effects of PAHs to humans.
Exposure: Mainly you are exposed to PAHs through contaminated air. Urban air has much more higher concentration of PAHs than rural air. You may be exposed to PAHs in soil near hazardous waste sites or near areas where coal, wood, gasoline or other products have been burned. Low levels of PAHs have been found in some drinking water supplies in the United States.In the home, PAHs are present in tobacco smoke, smoke from wood burning stoves and fireplaces, creosote-treated wood products, and some foods. Barbecuing, smoking, or charring food over a fire greatly increases the amount of PAHs in the food. Other foods that may contain low levels of PAHs include roasted coffee, roasted peanuts, refined vegetable oil, grains, vegetables, and fruits. A variety of cosmetics and shampoos are made with coal tar and therefore contain PAHs. The PAH compound naphthalene is present in some mothballs.
Effects: The health effects that can be caused by exposure to PAHs depend on how much has entered the body, how long you have been exposed to PAHs, and how the body responds to PAHs.
Short-term health effects: It is not clear that PAHs cause short-term health effects. Other compounds commonly found with PAHs may be the cause of short-term symptoms such as eye irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and confusion.
Long-term health effects:Cataracts, kidney and liver damage, and jaundice. Repeated skin contact to the PAH naphthalene can result in redness and inflammation of the skin. Breathing or swallowing large amounts of naphthalene can cause the breakdown of red blood cells.Long-term exposure to low levels of some PAHs have caused cancer in laboratory animals. Benzo(a)pyrene is the most common PAH to cause cancer in animals.