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Risks of cancer from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons exposure in soils and sediments across India

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of chemicals produced after burning wood, coal, garbage, gas and oil. PAHs might occur naturally from sources like volcanoes and forest fire or they might be produced by various human activities. More than 100 PAHs are known and many of them are very common around us. The smoke of a cigarette, meat cooked in high temperature, naphthalene - the toilet deodorizer and asphalt covering the roads, all contain PAHs. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are commercially used for making dyes, medicine, pesticides and plastic. A research group from Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines), Dhanbad has recently reported their assessment on the risks of developing a cancer following exposure to PAHs in contaminated soils and sediments across India. Accumulation of PAH in our surrounding might be a major threat to us as many PAHs are considered as potential cancer causing agents. The concentration of PAH from different regions of India were found to differ significantly. A nearby industry or unplanned discharges of untreated industrial effluents were found to be major causes leading to the accumulation of PAHs. Ingestion of these chemicals into our body could happen in many ways; in soils, maximum exposure happens through skin whereas contaminated food is the major route of exposure to PAHs in sediments. Although the potential risks from soil PAHs in India are in an acceptable range, the high risk potential for PAHs in sediments is a major concern. One need to take special precautions to remain protected from exposure to these chemicals. Avoiding fish from contaminated sediments and reducing exposure to skin by covering our body are some potential solutions. This study also indicated that some special regions of India like Bhavnagar coast, Raniganj, Sunderban, Raipur and Delhi are heavily polluted with PAHs and special measures should be ensured by the government to reduce exposure.