Predictors of Urinary Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Concentrations: NHANES 2001–2006

  • Kathleen M. NavarroEmail author
  • Jennifer K. Mann
  • S. Katharine Hammond
  • Thomas E. McKone
  • John R. Balmes
Original Paper


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are hazardous air pollutants formed during incomplete combustion, absorbed through inhalation and ingestion, and metabolized to hydroxylated compounds that can be detected in urine. Biomonitoring data provide a direct way to link human exposure to environmental contaminants. However, these data do not reveal how various exposure routes or media contribute to the body burden of a specific chemical. We evaluated predictors of urinary PAH concentrations in 2001–2006 NHANES participants from reported information on demographic and housing characteristics, reported food intake, and modeled outdoor air pollutant exposures. NHANES participants were linked to their daily PM2.5 exposure estimate and annual air toxics concentrations. Multivariate linear regression models were developed using the Deletion/Substitution/Addition algorithm to predict urinary PAHs. Exposure to air pollution was not associated with levels of urinary PAH metabolites. Current smoking status was the strongest predictor of PAH biomarker concentration and was able to explain 10–47% of the variability of PAH biomarker concentrations. In non-smokers, our prediction models were able to explain only 2–5% of the variability of PAH biomarker concentrations. Overall, our results indicated, with the exception of smoking status, there are not strong demographic, dietary, or environmental predictors of PAH exposure.


Biomarker Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon Air pollution 



This work was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (BAA11993 Contract # 200-2010-37740). Kathleen Navarro was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Targeted Research Traineeship (T42 OH008429). We would also like to thank the National Center for Health Statistics Research Data Center for their assistance. The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Research Data Center, the National Center for Health Statistics, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary material

12403_2018_292_MOESM1_ESM.docx (83 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 84 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public HealthUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Energy Analysis and Environmental Impacts DivisionLawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Manti-La Sal National ForestPriceUSA

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