Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) – Do These Exposures Cause Cancer?

Published on December 11th, 2017 by Andrew L. Hughes

What are PAHs?

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are a group of chemicals which occur as complex mixtures rather than single compounds. They occur naturally in coal and crude oil. They can be formed when certain substances are burned. Generally, PAHs are produced by burning materials like coal, oil, gas, wood, or garbage. PAHs are in cigarette smoke. They can also be found in substances like asphalt, roofing tar, and—most notably for our discussion—engine exhaust and creosote.

Where are PAHs found?

PAHs are a common workplace health hazard. Workers in mining, trucking, railroad, coking plants, aluminum production, chemical production and municipal trash incinerator plants suffer some of the highest exposures to PAHs. Generally, workers are exposed to PAHs on the job by inhaling engine exhaust or from inhaling dust or other small particles that PAHs attached to.

What are the health effects of PAH exposure?

When a worker is exposed to PAHs, it can have both immediate and longstanding effects. The most troubling concern with PAHs is that they have been known to cause cancer. There are more than a hundred different PAHs, many of which have been identified as human carcinogens and many of which are likely human carcinogens.

How can I prevent PAH exposure?

The best thing you can do to protect yourself against PAH exposure is wearing the proper PPE on your jobsite and following the health and safety guidelines set forth by OSHA. Make sure that your PPE is up to date and that your work environment is regularly inspected by professional safety auditors or industrial hygienists. Report and document exposures to supervisors and always ensure that protocols for dealing with exhaust and/or poor air quality are followed.

What do I do if I’ve been exposed?

Unfortunately, not all job sites are inspected regularly and not all employers adequately protect their workers from toxic PAH exposures. Chronic exposures to PAHs can result in many illnesses, including various forms of cancer such as lung, kidney and bladder. Contact Diesel Injury Law if you suspect your cancer or the illness of a loved one may have been caused by long term exposures to PAHs or other chemicals. Our team will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

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