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Tribal-FERST Issue Profile: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of chemicals found in coal, crude oil, and gasoline and produced when coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage and tobacco are burned. An example of a PAH is naphthalene, which is used to make other chemicals and mothballs. PAHs can bind to or form small particles in the air.

People are exposed to PAHs by breathing contaminated air or eating food on which PAH-contaminated air has settled. There can also be PAHs found in grilled or charred food.

The health effects from exposure to low levels of PAHs are unknown. Large amounts of naphthalene in air can irritate eyes and breathing passages. Workers who have been exposed to large amounts of naphthalene from skin contact with the liquid form, and from breathing naphthalene vapor have developed blood and liver abnormalities. Several other PAHs and some specific mixtures of PAHs are considered to be cancer-causing chemicals. EPA regulates the amount of some PAHs in drinking water and helps educate the public on reducing exposure to PAHs.

To learn more about PAHs and how to manage your risk to PAH exposure, see the resources below.

General Information


Environmental Concentrations, Human Exposures, and Health Risks

Interested in learning more about a specific location? Type an address, city or ZIP code into the box on the right side of the map below. Click on the map to see a pop-up with information about ambient concentration, exposure concentration and cancer risk for the chosen location(s). Navigate to the next feature by clicking the small arrow(s) on the top right side of the pop-up.

Exposure and Risk Reduction Options

Strategies Implemented By Other Communities

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