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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are ubiquitous environmental pollutants that pose a complex health hazard which includes carcinogenic, reprotoxic and immunotoxic effects. For the proper risk assessment and management of PAH, appropriate exposure monitoring is essential. In most occupational settings exposure to PAH occurs primary by inhalation, although dermal exposure may play a significant role as well. In environmental settings oral (through foodstuffs) and dermal exposures usually are equally or more important than inhalation in the total exposure. Consequently, human biomonitoring of exposure to PAH, which integrates all routes of exposure, has proven to be highly useful in both occupational and environmental settings. Several biomarkers of PAH exposure have been developed over the past decades. The suitability of biomarkers in human health risk assessment can be based on four criteria: 1. analytical integrity, 2. knowledge of toxicokinetics (ability to describe exposure), 3. knowledge of health effects (including dose–response relationships), and 4. the overall weight of evidence. The available urinary biomarkers of exposure (3-hydroxybenzo[a]pyrene, hydroxyphenthrenes, and 1-hydroxypyrene) and biomarkers of effective dose (protein and DNA adducts of PAH) were assessed against these four criteria. It was concluded that 1-hydroxypyrene (HO-Pyr) is, at present, the most suitable biomarker for the risk assessment of PAH.

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