Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are widespread in the environment and can adversely affect human health. The aim of the present study is to describe the level of PAHs exposure in children living in Kraków, one of the most polluted cities in Poland, and to determine the relationship of urinary biomarkers with environmental PAHsexposure.
Urinary monohydroxy metabolites (OH-PAHs) of 20 PAHs were assessed in 218 three-year old children, of which only 10 were present in nearly all the samples: monohydroxy metabolites of naphthalene, fluorene, phenantrene and pyrene. Of the metabolites analyzed, hydroxynaphthalenes were predominant and constituted almost 73% of total excreted OH-PAHs, while 1-OH-PYRene was the least abundant (2.3% of total OH-PAHs). All measured urinary OH-PAHs were statistically significantly correlated with each other (R = 0.165–0.880) but the highest correlation coefficients with other individual OH-PAHs and with total OH-PAHs were observed for 2-OH-FLUOR.
Children exposed at home to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) had higher concentrations of fluorene and pyrene urinary metabolites compared to those without ETS exposure; and those exposed to gas-based appliances used for cooking or heating water had higher levels of fluorene and phenanthrene metabolites than children not exposed. The use of coal, wood or oil for heating was associated with elevated levels of 1-OH-PYRene. Urinary PAHs metabolites only modestly reflect high molecular weight carcinogenic PAHs exposures such as those monitored in air in the present study. None of the measured PAHs metabolites was correlated with airborne PM2.5 and only two were slightly correlated with measured higher molecular mass airborne PAHs.
The average concentrations of these specific metabolites in Polish children were much higher than observed in other pediatric populations living in developed countries. Our findings suggest that to capture various sources of PAHs, in addition to 1-OH-PYRene, biomonitoring of PAHs exposure should include 2-OH-NAP and 2-OH-FLUOR.