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What are they?
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), also known as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons consist of fused aromatic rings which are made of carbon and hydrogens. PAHs are organic compounds which exist as environmental pollutants. The formation of PAHs is due to incomplete combustion of petroleum distillates, tobacco and grilling of food. As PAHs poses harmful effects on human health, they are regulated in food, water and ambient air in the European Union. In addition, PAHs can be found in plastic, rubber and coating but it is not intentionally added to the materials. They exist as contaminants in consumer products.
In particular, Germany has concern about PAHs in consumer products. It has been an industry norm to test as per publication from the German Committee for Product Safety, AfPS GS 2014:01 PAK. Some consumer magazines in Germany inspected products with a more stringent PAH requirement. The German Committee is discussing to lower PAHs’ limits and increase the number of restricted substances.
Some PAHs are identified as carcinogenic for example benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) which can induce skin tumors. BaP is also classified as mutagenic and toxic to reproduction in the European Union. Humans can be exposed to PAHs via multiple channels e.g. smoking tobaccos, consuming barbecued food and absorbing through direct skin contact.
Commonly found in:
Minerals oils (as a secondary plasticiser) and/or carbon black (as a pigment) are used in plastic and rubber materials. These additives may contain PAHs which exist as contaminants.
Related legislation (non-exhaustive)
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