Twelve polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, multi-ringed compounds known to be carcinogenic in air of six domestic kitchens and four commercial kitchens of China were measured in 1999-2000. The mean concentration of total PAHs in commercial kitchens was 17 microg/m3, consisting mainly of 3- and 4-ring PAHs, and 7.6 microg/m3 in domestic kitchens, where 2- and 3-ring PAHs were predominant, especially naphthalene. The BaP levels in domestic kitchens were 0.0061-0.024 microg/m3 and 0.15- 0.44 microg/m3 in commercial kitchens. Conventional Chinese cooking methods were responsible for such heavy PAHs pollution. The comparative study for PAH levels in air during three different cooking practices: boiling, broiling and frying were conducted. It was found that boiling produced the least levels of PAHs. For fish, a low-fat food, frying it produced a larger amount of PAHs compared to broiling practice, except pyrene and anthracene. In commercial kitchens, PAHs came from two sources, cooking practice and oil-fumes, however the cooking practice had a more predominant contribution to PAHs in commercial kitchen air. In domestic kitchens, except for cooking practice and oil-fumes, there were other PAHs sources, such as smoking and other human activities in the domestic houses, where 3-4 ring PAHs mainly came from cooking practice. Naphthalene (NA, 2-ring PAHs) was the most predominant kind, mostly resulting from the evaporation of mothball containing a large quantity of NA, used to prevent clothes against moth. A fingerprint of oil-fumes was the abundance of 3-ring PAHs. Heating at the same temperature, the PAHs concentrations in different oil-fumes were lard > soybean oil > rape-seed oil. An increase in cooking temperature increased the levels of PAHs, especially acenaphthene.