Association of urinary polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and obesity in children aged 3-18: Canadian Health Measures Survey 2009-2015

J Dev Orig Health Dis. 2020 Dec;11(6):623-631. doi: 10.1017/S2040174419000825. Epub 2019 Dec 6.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may contribute to obesity. Childhood obesity is a strong predictor of adult obesity and morbidity; however, the relationship between PAHs and obesity in young children (e.g., aged 3-5) has not been studied. We examined the association between urinary PAH metabolites and measures of obesity in children. We analyzed data from 3667 children aged 3-18 years who participated in the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS, 2009-2015). We ran separate multivariable linear models to estimate the association between quartiles of PAH metabolites and each of body mass index (BMI) percentile, waist circumference (WC), and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) in the total population, as well as in the age subgroups 3-5, 6-11, and 12-18, adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, education, income quintile, diet, creatinine, and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. A multinomial logistic regression model estimated adjusted odds ratios for risk of central obesity. BMI, WC, and WHtR were positively associated with total PAH and naphthalene metabolites in the total population aged 3-18 and in age groups 6-11 and 12-18. In 3-5 year olds, WHtR, but not BMI, was significantly associated with total PAH, naphthalene, and phenanthrene metabolites. Overall, those in the highest quartile for naphthalene or total PAH metabolites had three times greater odds of having central obesity compared with those in the lowest quartile. Urinary PAH metabolites are associated with WHtR, an indicator of central obesity and predictor of health risks associated with obesity, in children as young as 3-5.

Keywords: biomonitoring; children; obesity; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; urinary metabolites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't