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Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of organic compounds that consist of fused benzene rings. They are formed during incomplete combustion of organic materials, such as coal, oil, gas, and biomass. PAHs are ubiquitous in the environment and can be found in air, soil, water, and food. Exposure to PAHs has been associated with a range of adverse health effects, including cancer, reproductive and developmental effects, immunotoxicity, and neurotoxicity. This article provides an overview of the sources, health effects, and mitigation strategies of PAHs.

Sources of PAHs

PAHs are released into the environment from both natural and anthropogenic sources. Natural sources of PAHs include forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and weathering of rocks and soil. Anthropogenic sources of PAHs include combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, as well as industrial processes, such as coke production, aluminum smelting, and waste incineration. PAHs can also be released during the production and use of consumer products, such as coal-tar-based sealants, asphalt, and tobacco smoke.

Health Effects of PAHs

PAHs have been shown to have a range of adverse health effects in both animals and humans. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified several PAHs as human carcinogens based on their ability to cause cancer in laboratory animals and humans. PAHs have been associated with lung, bladder, liver, and skin cancers. In addition to cancer, exposure to PAHs has been linked to reproductive and developmental effects, such as low birth weight and developmental delays, as well as immunotoxicity and neurotoxicity.

Mitigation Strategies

Several strategies have been developed to mitigate the impact of PAHs on human health and the environment. One of the most effective strategies is to reduce emissions of PAHs by promoting clean energy sources, such as renewable energy and natural gas, and reducing the use of fossil fuels. Regulations have been put in place in many countries to limit emissions of PAHs from industrial processes and consumer products. In addition, remediation techniques, such as soil vapor extraction and bioremediation, can be used to clean up contaminated sites.


PAHs are a group of organic compounds that are ubiquitous in the environment and can have adverse health effects on humans and wildlife. The sources of PAHs are both natural and anthropogenic, and exposure can occur through inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact. Mitigation strategies, such as reducing emissions and remediation of contaminated sites, are essential to reduce the risk of exposure to PAHs and protect human health and the environment.