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, 37 (1), 26-41

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons as a Potential Source of Carcinogenicity of Mate


Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons as a Potential Source of Carcinogenicity of Mate

Ebele Oranuba et al. J Environ Sci Health C Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev.


Drinking mate, an infusion of the herb ilex paraguariensis, is very common in several South American countries, and has been associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer. This increased risk may be attributed to drinking mate very hot, or to mate's potentially carcinogenic contaminants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Mate leaves are often dried via smoking, and therefore commercial samples may have high amounts of PAHs. We found 10 original articles that had measured PAHs in commercial dry samples, and nearly all found very high mass fractions. Most studies found benzo[a]pyrene mass fractions to be over 25 ng/g, and some found levels up to 600 ng/g. However, carcinogenic PAHs are often hydrophobic, and may not readily transfer into infusions. Seven articles studied transfer rates, and these rates varied from 1 to 50%, depending on the methods employed. Further careful studies of transfer rates in situations that mimic real life drinking of mate are recommended. Also, further studies of biological indicators of PAH exposure, particularly in randomized experiments, and analyzing DNA from tumor samples of mate drinkers are recommended.

Keywords: PAH; benzo[a]pyrene; esophageal cancer; hot drinks; mate.

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosure statement

The authors declare no financial interest or other conflicts of interest.

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