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Acenapthene/Anthracene/Pyrene/Benzo[g,h i]perylene/Benzo[b]fluoranthene/Fluoranthene/ Chrysene/ Phenanthrene/Benzo[a]anthracene/Benzo[a]pyrene/Dibenzo[a,h]anthracene

The chemicals in bold are those that are listed on Dr. Leblanc's Contaminants List.

PAHs can be harmful to your health under some circumstances. Several of the PAHs, including benz[a]anthracene, benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[j]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, chrysene, dibenz[a,h]anthracene, and indeno[1,2,3-c,d]pyrene, have caused tumors in laboratory animals when they breathed these substances in the air, when they ate them, or when they had long periods of skin contact with them. Studies of people show that individuals exposed by breathing or skin contact for long periods to mixtures that contain PAHs and other compounds can also develop cancer. 

Mice fed high levels of benzo[a]pyrene during pregnancy had difficulty reproducing and so did their offspring. The offspring of pregnant mice fed benzo[a]pyrene also showed other harmful effects, such as birth defects and decreased body weight. Similar effects could occur in people, but we have no information to show that these effects do occur. 

Studies in animals have also shown that PAHs can cause harmful effects on skin, body fluids, and the body's system for fighting disease after both short- and long-term exposure. These effects have not been reported in people. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benz[a]anthracene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[j]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, benzo[a]pyrene, dibenz[a,h]anthracene, and indeno[1,2,3-c,d]pyrene are known animal carcinogens. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined the following: benz[a]anthracene and benzo[a]pyrene are probably carcinogenic to humans; benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[j]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, and indeno[1,2,3-c,d]pyrene are possibly carcinogenic to humans; and anthracene, benzo[g,h,i]perylene, benzo[e]pyrene, chrysene, fluoranthene, fluorene, phenanthrene, and pyrene are not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans. EPA has determined that benz[a]anthracene, benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, chrysene, dibenz[a,h]anthracene, and indeno[1,2,3-c,d]pyrene are probable human carcinogens and that acenaphthylene, anthracene, benzo[g,h,i]perylene, fluoranthene, fluorene, phenanthrene, and pyrene are not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity. Acenaphthene has not been classified for carcinogenic effects by the DHHS, IARC, or EPA.

The federal government has set regulations to protect people from the possible health effects of eating, drinking, or breathing PAHs. EPA has suggested that taking into your body each day the following amounts of individual PAHs is not likely to cause any harmful health effects: 0.3 milligrams (mg) of anthracene, 0.06 mg of acenaphthene, 0.04 mg of fluoranthene, 0.04 mg of fluorene, and 0.03 mg of pyrene per kilogram (kg) of your body weight (one kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds). Actual exposure for most of the United States population occurs from active or passive inhalation of the compounds in tobacco smoke, wood smoke, and contaminated air, and from eating the compounds in foods. Skin contact with contaminated water, soot, tar, and soil may also occur. Estimates for total exposure in the United States population have been listed as 3 mg/day. 

From what is currently known about benzo[a]pyrene, the federal government has developed regulatory standards and guidelines to protect people from the potential health effects of PAHs in drinking water. EPA has provided estimates of levels of total cancer-causing PAHs in lakes and streams associated with a risk of human cancer development. If the following amounts of individual PAHs are released to the environment within a 24-hour period, EPA must be notified: 1 pound of benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[a]pyrene, or dibenz[a,h]anthracene; 10 pounds of benz[a]anthracene; 100 pounds of acenaphthene, chrysene, fluoranthene, or indeno[1,2,3-c,d]pyrene; or 5,000 pounds of acenaphthylene, anthracene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, benzo[g,h,i]perylene, fluorene, phenanthrene, or pyrene

PAHs are generally not produced commercially in the United States except as research chemicals. However, PAHs are found in coal, coal tar, and in the creosote oils, oil mists, and pitches formed from the distillation of coal tars. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concluded that occupational exposure to coal products can increase the risk of lung and skin cancer in workers. NIOSH established a recommended occupational exposure limit, time-weighted average (REL-TWA) for coal tar products of 0.1 milligram of PAHs per cubic meter of air (0.1 mg/m³) for a 10-hour workday, within a 40-hour workweek. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommends an occupational exposure limit for coal tar products of 0.2 mg/m³ for an 8-hour workday, within a 40-hour workweek. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established a legally enforceable limit of 0.2 mg/m³ averaged over an 8-hour exposure period. 

Mineral oil mists have been given an IARC classification of 1 (sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity). The OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for mineral oil mist is 5 mg/m³ averaged over an 8-hour exposure period. NIOSH has concurred with this limit, and has established a recommended occupational exposure limit (REL-TWA) for mineral oil mists of 5 mg/m³ for a 10-hour work day, 40-hour work week, with a 10 mg/m³ Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL).



Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may damage or destroy some of your red blood cells. This could cause you to have too few red blood cells until your body replaces the destroyed cells. This condition is called hemolytic anemia. Some symptoms of hemolytic anemia are fatigue, lack of appetite, restlessness, and pale skin. Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the urine, and a yellow color to the skin. Animals sometimes develop cloudiness in their eyes after swallowing high amounts of naphthalene. It is not clear whether this also develops in people. Rats and mice that breathed naphthalene vapors daily for a lifetime developed irritation and inflammation of their nose and lungs. It is unclear if naphthalene causes reproductive effects in animals; most evidence says it does not.

There are no studies of humans exposed to 1-methylnaphthalene or 2-methylnaphthalene.

Mice fed food containing 1-methylnaphthalene and 2-methylnaphthalene for most of their lives had part of their lungs filled with an abnormal material.

There is no direct evidence in humans that naphthalene, 1-methylnaphthalene, or 2-methylnaphthalene cause cancer. However, cancer from naphthalene exposure has been seen in animal studies. Some female mice that breathed naphthalene vapors daily for a lifetime developed lung tumors. Some male and female rats exposed to naphthalene in a similar manner also developed nose tumors.

Based on the results from animal studies, the Department of Health and Humans Services (DHHS) concluded that naphthalene is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that naphthalene is possibly carcinogenic to humans. The EPA determined that naphthalene is a possible human carcinogen (Group C) and that the data are inadequate to assess the human carcinogenic potential of 2-methylnaphthalene.

The EPA recommends that children not drink water with over 0.5 parts per million (0.5 ppm) naphthalene for more than 10 days or over 0.4 ppm for any longer than 7 years. Adults should not drink water with more than 1 ppm for more than 7 years. For water consumed over a lifetime (70 years), the EPA suggests that it contain no more than 0.1 ppm naphthalene.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set a limit of 10 ppm for the level of naphthalene in workplace air during an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) considers more than 500 ppm of naphthalene in air to be immediately dangerous to life or health. This is the exposure level of a chemical that is likely to impair a worker's ability to leave a contaminate area and therefore, results in permanent health problems or death.




Little to no information is available on the effects of dibenzofuran exposure to your health. However, the information that does exist shows that short-term exposure to dibenzofuran can cause skin, eye, nose, and throat irritation. Very little information is available on the levels of exposure that will cause harmful effects. In addition to the skin, eye, nose and throat irritation caused by short-term exposure; long term exposure can cause rashes and growths to appear on your skin. Your skin may also change color.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that there is not enough information available to classify dibenzofuran as a cancer causing substance.