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1.1 Background of Study

One of the ubiquitous sets of chemicals that abound in the environment is the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), also known as the poly nuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. PAHs constitute a large class of organic compounds, containing 2 or more fused aromatic rings made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Food is one source of PAH (Guillen et al., 1997). When food particularly meat products and fish is smoked, roasted, barbecued, or grilled; PAHs are formed as a result of incomplete combustion or thermal decomposition of the organic materials (WHO, 2006). Pyrolysis of the fats in the meat/fish generates PAH that become deposited on the meat/fish. PAH production by cooking over charcoal (barbecued, grilled) is a function of both the fat content of the meat/fish and the proximity of the food to the heat source (Phillips, 1999; Kazerouniet al., 2001). Several analyses of charcoal roasted/grilled common food items have proven the presence of PAHs such as benzo[a]pyrene, anthracene, chrysene, benzo[a]anthracene, indeno[1,2,3-c,d]pyrene (Linda et al., 2011).

PAHs are produced in food when the fat from meat, poultry or fish drips onto hot coals or stones resulting in smoke and flare-ups which are carried back onto the grilled food. The amount and types of PAHs produced depend on the type of food, cooking method, temperature and cooking time. PAHs which formed in processed and cooked foods are very well known ecotoxicants (genotoxic substance) which are harmful to health. In mammalian cells PAH undergoes metabolic activation to diol epoxides that binds covalently to cellular macromolecules, including DNA, thereby causing errors in DNA replication and mutation that initiates the carcinogenic process. A number of PAHs have been found to have carcinogenic and mutagenic effects while some of them may act as synergists.High PAH has been reported in charcoal grilled/barbecued foods (such as fatty meat and meat products grilled under prolonged and severe conditions).

One of the major routes of humanexposure to PAHs in non-smoking people is food.These compounds can reach the food chain bydifferent ways as PAHs have been found in differentfood products, such as dairy products, vegetables,fruits, oils, coffee, tea, cereals and smoked meat,therefore the analysis of PAHs in food is a matter of concern (Plaza-Bolanoset al., 2010). Over the years,different sources of PAH contamination of food havebeen found. Food items and products could becontaminated by soils, polluted air and water (WHO,2005). Some aquatic food products, such as fish, canbe exposed to PAHs present in water and sedimentsand the PAH content greatly depends on the ability ofthe aquatic organisms to metabolize them. On the other hand, PAHs arealso found in foods as a result of certain industrialfood processing methods such as smoke curing,broiling, roasting and grilling over open fires orcharcoal which permits the direct contact betweenfood and combustion products (Silva et al., 2011).

It has been found that raw foods do not usually contain high levels of PAHs, presence of PAHs in uncooked food, such as vegetables, seeds and grains have been found to accumulate on the waxy surface of many vegetables and fruits. In general, PAHs are not present individually but in mixtures. Sixteen PAHs are considered priority pollutants in terms of health effects, included in US EPA’s list of 188 hazardous air pollutant: naphthalene, acenaphthylene, acenaphthene, fluorene, phenanthrene, anthracene, fluoranthene, pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene, chrysene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, benzo(a)pyrene, indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene, dibenz(a,h)anthracene and benzo(g,h,i)perylene (US EPA, 1990, WHO,1998). Of these 16 PAHs, Benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) is probably the most studied and has been described by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as probable human carcinogen in 1987 (IARC, 1987).

Figure 1.Structures of the 16 US-EPA PAHs


1.2Relevant of Study

  • To determine the baseline concentration of PAH in food snacks sold in FUPRE
  • Serves as reference material for further investigation in the field of PAHs study
  • To add more knowledge on the presence and effect of PAH in roasted food snacks

1.3 Statement of Problem

Food processedby roasting, grilling, barbecuing and in general smoking, generates PAHs and increases the level of PAHs in the food being roasted. The formation of mutagenic and carcinogenic substances during the cooking of food is currently the subject of intensive research. It is well known that roosting food can lead to the production and uptake of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), some of which are potent carcinogens. Researchers has it that high consumption of fried, or barbecued food (meats) was associated with increased risks of colorectal (Cross A. J.,et al., 2010), pancreatic (Anderson K. E., et al., 2002), and prostate (Cross A. J.,et al., 2005) cancer.

Given the public health significance of PAHs, the final year students of Environmental Science (EVS) Department, Federal University of Petroleum Resources Effurun under the supervision of Dr. Agbozu examined this issue by conducting a study to evaluate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon present in roasted fish and plantain sold within the university since these roasted fish and plantain are some of the most popular snacks consumed by both members of staff and students within the FUPRE community.

1.4 Objectives of Study

This report presents data and results from the evaluation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in roasted fish and plantain in FUPRE. The objectives of this investigation are to determine:

  • The concentration level and distribution of PAH in roasted food snacks (fish and plantain) consumed by people in Fupre.
  • The potential health risk on consumption of these snacks.




Anderson K. E, Sinha R, and Kulldorff M, (2002). Meat intake and cooking techniques: Associations with pancreatic cancer. Mutation Research; 506–507:225–231.

Amos-Tautua B.M.W., Inengite A. K., Abasi C.Y and Amirize G.C., (2013). Evaluation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and some heavy metals in roasted food snacks in Amassoma, Niger Delta, Nigeria. African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 7(10), pp. 961-966.

Cross A. J,Ferrucci L. M, and Risch A., (2010). A large prospective study of meat consumption and colorectal cancer risk: An investigation of potential mechanisms underlying this association. Cancer Research; 70(6):2406–2414.

Cross A. J, Peters U, and Kirsh V.A, et al., (2005).A prospective study of meat and meat mutagens and prostate cancer risk.Cancer Research; 65(24):11779–11784.

Guillen M. D, Sopelana P., and Partearroyo M. A., (1997).Food as source of poly aromatic carcinogens. J. Environ. Health. 12(3):133-146

HelmiHamdi and MitsuoYoshid, (2002).PAH Determination in Environmental Samples Using GC Analysis Technique: A Case Study on Bizerte Lagoon Sediments. Solid Waste Landfill, Soil/Sediment Contamination, and Lagoon Pollution: Case Studies in Tunisia, p.110-115.


IARC.(1987). Overall evaluation of carcinogenicity: An updating of IARC Monographs, vol. 1–42, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Suppl. 7, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon.

Kazerouni N, Sinha R, Hsu C. H, Greenberg A, and Rothman N (2001). Analysis of 200 foods Items for benzo[a]pyrene and estimation of its intake in an epidemiologic study. Fd Chem. Toxicol. 39:423436

Linda MN, Carboo PD, Yeboah PO, Quasie WJ, Mordecai A, Gorleku MA, and Darko A (2011). Characterization of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) Present in Smoked Fish from Ghana. Adv. J. Food Sci. Technol. 3(5):332-338.

  1. EL Badry, (2010). Effect of Household Cooking Methods and Some Food Additives On Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Formation in Chicken Meat. World Applied Science Journal 9 (9): 963-974.

Phillips D. H (1999).Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the Diet.Mutat. Res., 443:139-147.

Silva, B.O., Adetunde, O.T., Oluseyi, T.O., Olayinka, K.O. and Alo, B. I. (2011). Effects of method of smoking on the levels of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) in some locally consumed fishes in Nigeria. African Journal of Food Science, 5:148 – 155.