This summer when you plan your next outdoor barbecue think about how Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be hazardous to your health but, wait, PAHs are not just in your grilled and smoked meats but also in our soil and drinking water!
The Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) describes PAHs as a group of over 100 different chemicals that occur naturally in fossil fuel products (e.g., coal and oil), and are among the effluents of combustion processes commonly used for heating, incineration, and electric power generation. In addition, PAHs are formed by the incomplete burning of organic substances such as smoked meat.
How do PAHs Affect Your Health?
Several PAHs cause cancer in humans; others are considered to be probable or possible cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, exposure to high PAH concentrations affects the body’s ability to fight disease and infections. Meat cooked at high temperatures, for example grilling, broiling or frying, creates hetrocyclic amines (HCAs) and PAHs, compounds that have been both linked to cancers:
HCAs are formed when amino acids and creatine react at high temperatures, causing damage to DNA, which spurs the development of tumor cells.
PAHs are formed when fat drips onto hot coal, creating smoke that settles on food.
But, to give you some perspective, here is a quote from Colleen Doyle, the Director of Nutrition and Physical activity for the American Cancer Society, "within the big picture of cancer prevention, there are many greater risks than grilling, if you are 30 pounds overweight for example, that puts you at a much greater risk for developing a number of cancers [than does eating grilled meats]."
The method meets the linearity, repeatability, precision, recovery, limit of detection (LOD), and limit of quantification (LOQ) criteria set by the European Commission, and can be used as an effective tool for measuring PAH content in smoked meats for quality control purposes.
In addition to being a concern in food, PAHs are also monitored worldwide in a wide range of environmental matrices, including drinking water, waste water, furnace emissions, soil, and hazardous waste extracts. Many regulatory bodies around the globe regulate the presence of these chemicals in the environment, as for example, the U.S. EPA in this EPA Method 8310 (link to method PDF).
When using the ASE technique to extract PAHs from soil, the spike recovery rate for the 16 PAHs is between 86.7% and 116.2%, showing that the ASE technique is suitable for extracting PAHs from soil. Pre-processing a sample using ASE is simple, fast, and highly efficient and reduces the amount of solvent required for extraction.
Do you use the Accelerated Solvent Extraction Technique for your Sample Preparation and analysis? If so, I would like to hear your thoughts and experiences. Remember your analysis is only as good as your sample Preparation!