Newborn Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons Through Parenteral Nutrition

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Background and Objectives:

Parenteral nutrition (PN) administered to newborns (NB) may be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and may therefore increase the contact with these toxicants in very early life stages. The aim of the study is to determine to what extent, if any, commercial products for PN are contaminated with PAHs and to determine whether these contaminants, when present in the bag content, are delivered to NB and whether 1-hydroxypyrene (1-HP), the pyrene metabolite, can be detected in the urine of exposed NB.


Commercial products and the bags administered to 10 NB during their period in the NICU were analyzed for the 16 priority US Environmental Protection Agency PAHs. Urine samples were collected and analyzed for their 1-HP content. Urine samples of a control group composed of 8 breastfed NB were also analyzed for the determination of 1-HP.


From 9 different commercial products used to compound PN bags, 6 were contaminated with PAHs, with total concentrations varying from 0.02 to 10.56 mg/L. In the bags administered to the NB, this sum varied from 0.01 to 6.30 mg/L with a mean of 2.62 mg/L. Therefore, for each 100 mL PN, an average load of 0.26 mg PAHs was observed. The majority of the urine samples taken from NB in the study group (80%) contained 1-HP, but it was not detected in the urine of any baby in the control group.


The contamination of PN with PAHs poses a critical toxicological risk. The elevated contaminant concentrations and the parenteral way of administration make this source of PAHs considerably worse than any other, including maternal exposure to environmental pollution or tobacco.

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