Settled house dust (SHD) may be a significant source of children's indoor exposure to hazardous substances including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In this study, organic extracts of sieved vacuum cleaner dust from 51 homes were examined for the presence of 13 PAHs via GC/MS. PAHs were found in all samples with levels of total PAHs ranging between 1.5 and 325 microg g(-1). The PAH concentrations in the SHD were correlated with information contained in corresponding household questionnaires. Analyses showed levels of PAHs to be negatively associated with noncombustion activities such as vacuum cleaning frequency. A risk assessment was conducted to evaluate the excess lifetime cancer risks posed to preschool aged children who ingested PAHs in SHD. The assessment revealed that exposure to PAHs at levels found in 90% of the homes (< 40 microg g(-1)) would result in excess cancer risks that are considered acceptable (i.e., 1-100 x 10(-6)). However, exposure to higher levels of PAHs found in five homes yielded risks that could be higher than 1 x 10(-4).