Urinary Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Childhood Obesity: NHANES (2001-2006)

Environ Health Perspect. 2014 Mar;122(3):299-303. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1307234. Epub 2014 Jan 3.


Background: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are known carcinogens and suspected endocrine disruptors. Prenatal exposure to PAHs has been associated with obesity in early childhood.

Objective: We examined the association of urinary PAH metabolites with adiposity outcomes [body mass index (BMI) z-score, waist circumference (WC), and rate of obesity] in children and adolescents.

Methods: We performed whole-sample analyses of 3,189 individuals 6-19 years of age who participated in the 2001-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. We performed multivariate linear and logistic regression to analyze the association of BMI z-score, WC, and obesity with concentrations of single urinary PAH compounds and the sum of PAHs. Furthermore, the analyses were stratified by developmental stage [i.e., children (6-11 years) and adolescents (12-19 years)].

Results: BMI z-score, WC, and obesity were positively associated with the molecular mass sum of the PAHs and the total sum of naphthalene metabolites. Most associations increased monotonically with increasing quartiles of exposure among children 6-11 years of age, whereas dose-response trends were less consistent for adolescents (12-19 years of age). Neither total PAHs nor total naphthalene metabolites were associated with overweight in either age group, and there was little evidence of associations between the outcomes and individual PAHs.

Conclusions: Total urinary PAH metabolites and naphthalene metabolites were associated with higher BMI, WC, and obesity in children 6-11 years of age, with positive but less consistent associations among adolescents.

Citation: Scinicariello F, Buser MC. 2014. Urinary polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and childhood obesity: NHANES (2001-2006). Environ Health Perspect 122:299-303; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1307234.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Environmental Pollutants / urine*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / urine*
  • Regression Analysis
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons