Tuesday, October 18, 2005

PAH - Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of over 100 different chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat. PAHs are usually found as a mixture containing two or more of these compounds, such as soot.

Some PAHs are manufactured. These pure PAHs usually exist as colorless, white, or pale yellow-green solids. PAHs are found in coal tar, crude oil, creosote, and roofing tar, but a few are used in medicines or to make dyes, plastics, and pesticides.

However, you also might be exposed to PAHs by eating grilled or charred meats, contaminated cereals, flour, bread, vegetables, fruits, meats as well as processed or pickled foods, and drinking contaminated water or cow's milk... to name just a few.

Longterm or delayed health effects include:
1) This chemical is likely to cause cancer. It is considered a Probable Carcinogen.
2) Reproductive Toxicant = Can harm reproductive system
3) Development Toxicant = Can interfere with normal development of a fetus or child
4) Suspected Endocrine Disruptor = May interfere with, mimic or block hormones

And this is why Europe's food agency is calling on scientists across the food industry to contribute data on the potentially carcinogenic compounds, because they have been increasingly pinpointed by consumer organisations as a food safety issue in the food chain.

Commission Regulation (EC) No 466/2001 as amended by Regulation 208/2005 sets maximum levels for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), specifically benzo[a]pyrene, in certain foods. But in view of remaining uncertainties on levels of carcinogenic PAH in foods, especially on those PAHs identified by the former EC Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) to possess both genotoxic and carcinogenic properties, the rules have provided for a review by April 1, 2007.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has developed a database, on the Commission's recommendation 2005/108/EC, to investigate the levels of PAHs in certain foods.

"Data from all kind of laboratories are needed; official food control, research, and the food industry," says EFSA.

I'm certain we will be hearing more on this subject in future.


1. Agency For Toxic Substances And Disease Registry
2. Europe's food agency investigates harmful PAHs in food
3. CHEC's Health House - Chemical Summary PAH
4. Department of Health and Family Services - Wisconsin