Concentration and profile of 22 urinary polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolites in the US population

Zheng Li, Courtney D. Sandau, Lovisa C. Romanoff, Samuel P. Caudill, Andreas Sjodin, Larry L. Needham, Donald G. Patterson

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Urinary monohydroxy polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (OH-PAHs) are a class of PAH metabolites used as biomarkers for assessing human exposure to PAHs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) uses OH-PAHs to establish reference range concentrations for the US population, and to set benchmarks for future epidemiologic and biomonitoring studies. For the years 2001 and 2002, 22 OH-PAH metabolites were measured in urine specimens from 2748 NHANES participants. Percentages of samples with detectable levels ranged from nearly 100% for metabolites of naphthalene, fluorene, phenanthrene, and pyrene, to less than 5% for metabolites from parent compounds with higher molecular weight such as chrysene, benzo[c]phenanthrene, and benz[a]anthracene. The geometric mean for 1-hydroxypyrene (1-PYR)-the most commonly used biomarker for PAH exposure-was 49.6 ng/L urine, or 46.4 ng/g creatinine. Children (ages 6-11) generally had higher levels than did adolescents (ages 12-19) or adults (ages 20 and older). Model-adjusted, least-square geometric means for 1-PYR were 87, 53 and 43 ng/L for children, adolescents (ages 12-19) and adults (ages 20 years and older), respectively. Log-transformed concentrations for major detectable OH-PAHs were significantly correlated with each other. The correlation coefficients between 1-PYR and other metabolites ranging from 0.17 to 0.63 support the use of 1-PYR as a useful surrogate representing PAH exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-331
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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