Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Residential Dust: Sources of Variability

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Residential Dust: Sources of Variability

Article excerpt

Semivolatile chemicals accumulate on dust particles, and dust that is trapped deep within a carpet can be a permanent reservoir for these chemicals (Roberts et al. 2009). Thus, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations in carpet dust should reflect long-term average levels of residential PAH contamination.

Although many researchers have measured PAHs in dust, few have characterized the variability of dust measurements within and between households over time (Egeghy et al. 2005; Whitehead et al. 2012). When estimating the health effects related to a chemical exposure, the variance ratio (i.e., ratio of within-subject variability to between-subject variability) is predictive of the underestimation of the relationship between an exposure and a health effect (Armstrong 1998). We have found that variance ratios for PAHs in residential dust are generally modest when repeat dust samples are collected at semiannual intervals (Whitehead et al. 2012). Thus, one dust measurement should be sufficient to characterize the average levels of contamination found in a residence over a year or so. However, the magnitude of temporal variability that exists in residential-dust measurements over years or decades has not been estimated and may be important for accurately assessing long-term exposure.

Our objective in this investigation was to characterize the long-term variability of PAH concentrations in residential dust. We analyzed 12 PAHs in repeated residential-dust samples collected at intervals of 3-8 years. Because long-term exposures to PAHs have been associated with adverse health effects (Boffetta et al. 1997), and dust ingestion and inhalation can be significant sources of PAH exposures (Chuang et al. 1999), we also identified predictors of residential-dust PAH levels.


Study population. The Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study is a case-control study of childhood leukemia conducted in the San Francisco Bay area and California Central Valley that seeks to identify genetic and environmental risk factors for childhood leukemia. Cases 0-14 years of age were ascertained from pediatric clinical centers; controls, matched to cases on date of birth, sex, race, and Hispanic ethnicity, were selected from the California birth registry (California Department of Public Health, Sacramento, CA). Residential dust samples were collected from study homes as one strategy for assessing relevant environmental exposures. Case and control participants who were enrolled in the study from December 1999 through November 2007 were eligible for initial residential-dust collection if they were 0-7 years old and lived in the same home they had occupied at the time of diagnosis (or a similar reference date for controls). Subsequently, in 2010, participants in the initial dust collection were eligible for a second dust collection if they were still living in the same home. Among 629 participants in the initial dust collection, 225 were eligible for a second dust collection and 204 participated in the second dust collection. We successfully analyzed two dust samples for PAHs in 201 homes and successfully analyzed only the second dust sample for PAHs in three homes. For an additional 89 participants in the initial dust collection who were ineligible for the second dust collection, we also analyzed one dust sample for PAHs, as described below. We obtained written informed consent from the children's parents and study protocols were approved by the institutional review board at the University of California, Berkeley.

Collection of residential dust. During the first round of dust sampling (2001-2007), we collected vacuum cleaner dust and administered a questionnaire during an inhome visit. During the second round of dust sampling (2010), we interviewed participants via telephone and instructed them to mail their vacuum cleaner bags (or the contents of their vacuum cleaner canisters) to the study center in prepaid parcels. …

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