Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
What is B(a)P?
Benzo(a)pyrene (B(a)P) is a member of a class of compounds known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which generally occur as complex mixtures and not as single compounds. PAHs are primarily by-products of incomplete combustion. These combustion sources are numerous, including natural sources such as wildfires, industrial processes, transportation, energy production and use, food preparation, smoking tobacco, and disposal activities such a as open trash burning.
Why Are We Concerned About B(a)P
B(a)P along with other PAHs are suspected of causing cancer in humans. It is bioaccumulative, does not break down easily in our environment, and is subject to long range air transport.
What Harmful Effects Can B(a)P Have On Us?
- Likely causes cancer in humans
- Causes skin disorders in humans and animals
- Causes harmful developmental and reproductive effects
How Are We Exposed To B(a)P?
- In the home by breathing air contaminated by smoke from fireplaces, wood stoves, furnaces burning coal or oil and from food preparation.
- Eating meats and fish that have been smoked or charbroiled
- Smoking tobacco products
- Inhaling vehicle exhaust
- Inhaling fumes from working with coal tar and asphalt, working near charbroiling and high temperature frying equipment, working in coal coking operations and other industrial operations such as asphalt and aluminum production.
Where Can B(a)P Be Found?
B(a)P has no specific uses. It is generated by various combustion sources and is also a component or contaminant of such materials as tar and asphalt.
Potential sources to our Environment:
- Wildfires and prescribed burnings
- Primary aluminum production
- Coke ovens
- Residential wood stoves
- Burning of scrap tires
- Open trash burning
- On-road vehicles
- Asphalt roofing manufacturing
- Industrial boilers
- Meat charbroilers