Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are a class of molecules with a common pattern of molecular structure. They arise through the burning of fuels, including fat.

Health considerations

Certain PAHs increase cancer risk, increase mutations within DNA, or increase risk of birth defects. Exposure to PAHs in utero is associated with low birth weight, decreased head circumference, and behavioural issues as a child. PAHs are associated with multiple cancers, immune suppression, and higher scores in measures of overweight and obesity in children.

Keep in mind

PAHs arise in foods cooked at high heats, including smoking, grilling, and barbecue. PAHs also occur throughout the environment and therefore also occur in vegetables and cereal crops.

May be found in

Smoked fish, grilled meat, grilled vegetables, smoked meat, vegetables, cereals


Food Standards Agency
Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis
Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives 2
Environmental Health Perspectives 3

Alternative Spellings and Names

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), PAH(polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)

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