Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in edible grain: A pilot study of agricultural crops as a human exposure pathway for environmental contaminants using wheat as a model crop

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The concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were investigated in a pilot study of field wheat grain as a model indicator for environmental contamination. The edible grain would serve as a portal for human exposure. Wheat grain was initially studied since it is one of the major food crops consumed internationally by many including infants and children. Wheat grain samples from five different geographical growing locations in California that span approximately 450km were collected during the same growing season. The same variety of grain was harvested and analyzed for PAHs that ranged from 2- to 6-rings. PAHs were detected in all grain samples and were mainly 2- to 4-ring PAHs with naphthalene the most abundant among them. There were geographical differences in the levels of PAHs in the grain. The sources of the PAHs were not known in this pilot study, but the principal component analysis indicates that the major source is similar in all locations except for naphthalene. Grain naphthalene concentrations may reflect local naphthalene emissions. Diesel-fueled harvesting operations did not appear to contribute to the observed PAH concentrations in the grain. An estimate of naphthalene intake from eating grain compared to inhalation intake demonstrated the potential importance of field contamination of grain as a possible portal of human exposure. The relationship between PAH concentrations in grain and air should be quantitatively investigated to better quantitate exposure and to identify effective measures to lower the risk from PAH exposure through eating grain.

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