Urine samples collected in 1999 and 2000 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were analyzed for 14 monohydroxy polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH, metabolites of 7 PAH compounds) and for the first time reference range values were calculated for these metabolites in the U.S. population. The purpose of this paper is to explore differences in these PAH metabolites between children (6-11 years old), adolescents, and adults. More than 99% of the urine samples contained a detectable amount of 1-hydroxypyrene (1-OHpyrene), a metabolite of pyrene. We found that children in the youngest age group (6-11 years) had a geometric mean level (creatinine corrected data) 30% higher than children and adults in the other age groups, but no statistical differences existed between the two genders and among different racial groups. Smokers and persons exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in 12-19-year-old group and the 20-year-and-older group had higher levels of urinary 1-OHpyrene by a factor of 2-3 than non-smokers in the corresponding age group. Measurements of 3-hydroxyphenanthrene also suggested increased levels in children and in smokers. These results may indicate that young children are at a greater risk for PAH exposure, or that they absorb, distribute, metabolize, or eliminate PAH differently than adults.
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