J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2023 Jan 8:1-38. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2022.2164390. Online ahead of print.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are legacy pollutants of considerable public health concern. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons arise from natural and anthropogenic sources and are ubiquitously present in the environment. Several PAHs are highly toxic to humans with associated carcinogenic and mutagenic properties. Further, more severe harmful effects on human- and environmental health have been attributed to the presence of high molecular weight (HMW) PAHs, that is PAHs with molecular mass greater than 300 Da. However, more research has been conducted using low molecular weight (LMW) PAHs). In addition, no HMW PAHs are on the priority pollutants list of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), which is limited to only 16 PAHs. However, limited analytical methodologies for separating and determining HMW PAHs and their potential isomers and lack of readily available commercial standards make research with these compounds challenging. Since most of the PAH kinetic data originate from animal studies, our understanding of the effects of PAHs on humans is still minimal. In addition, current knowledge of toxic effects after exposure to PAHs may be underrepresented since most investigations focused on exposure to a single PAH. Currently, information on PAH mixtures is limited. Thus, this review aims to critically assess the current knowledge of PAH chemical properties, their kinetic disposition, and toxicity to humans. Further, future research needs to improve and provide the missing information and minimize PAH exposure to humans.
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