Carcinogenic PAH in waterpipe charcoal products

Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Nov;48(11):3242-5. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2010.08.033. Epub 2010 Aug 31.


Because narghile waterpipe (shisha, hooka) smoking normally involves the use of burning charcoal, smoke inhaled by the user contains constituents originating from the charcoal in addition to those from the tobacco. We have previously found that charcoal accounts for most of the polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and carbon monoxide in the smoke of the waterpipe, both of which are present in alarming quantities. Because charcoal manufacturing conditions favor formation of PAH, it is reasonable to assume that charcoal sold off the shelf may be contaminated by PAH residues. These residues may constitute a significant fraction of the PAH inhaled by the waterpipe user and those in her/his vicinity. We measured PAH residues on three kinds of raw waterpipe charcoal sampled from Beirut stores and cafés. We found that PAH residues in raw charcoal can account for more than half of the total PAH emitted in the mainstream and sidestream smoke, and about one sixth of the carcinogenic 5- and 6-ring PAH compounds. Total PAH content of the three charcoal types varied systematically by a factor of six from the charcoal with the least to the greatest PAH residue. These findings indicate the possibility of regulating charcoal carcinogen content.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Charcoal / chemistry*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Smoke / analysis*
  • Smoking / metabolism*
  • Tobacco / chemistry*


  • Carcinogens
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Smoke
  • Charcoal