A comparison of concentrations of polycyclic aromatic compounds detected in dust samples from various regions of the world
ABSTRACT Settled house dust can be a source of human exposure to toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) through non-dietary ingestion and dermal contact. Information regarding the concentrations of various contaminants in house dust would be useful in estimating the risk associated with exposure to these compounds. This study reports on the surface loading, variability and distribution of PAHs in settled house dust collected from homes in three locations: Sumgayit, Azerbaijan; Shanxi Province, China; and southern Texas, United States. The highest PAH floor surface loadings were observed in China, followed by Azerbaijan and Texas. Median concentrations of high molecular weight (four ring and larger) PAHs ranged from a low of 0.11 µg/m2 in Texas, to 2.9 µg/m2 in Azerbaijan and 162 µg/m2 in China. These trends in total surface loading and relative carcinogenicity indicate that the risk of health effects from exposure to PAHs in house dust is highest in the Chinese population and lowest in the Texas population. As anticipated, variability among dust samples from different houses within the same region was high, with coefficients of variation greater than 100%. Alkylated PAHs comprised 30–50% of the total mass of PAHs. Based on a comparison of the composition of specific components, PAHs in China and Azerbaijan were determined to be derived mainly from combustion sources rather than from unburned fossil fuels such as petroleum. These results, coupled with ongoing investigation of appropriate PAH exposure biomarkers in humans, will guide future efforts to identify ways to reduce exposures in the study areas.