Chromatography Analyses PAHs in Smokers
Oct 27 2019
Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death - even with an increase in alternative nicotine delivery methods including patches and vaping. It is estimated that each year, over six million deaths can be attributed to smoking - with almost 500,000 deaths in the US each year caused by cigarette smoking.
Cigarette smoke contains many thousands of chemicals with over 7000 different chemicals identified in cigarette smoke. Many of these are toxic and some are cancer causing chemicals. Among the many different classes of chemicals in cigarette smoke are PAHs. A recent study in Vietnam has assessed a chromatographic method that can detect PAHs in hair samples that could enable researchers to assess human exposure to PAHs in hair samples.
Chemicals in smoke causing cancer
For all but the most misguided individuals, most people accept the link between cigarette smoke and cancer, as well as a host of other illnesses. There are many ways that the harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause cancer. DNA controls how our cells behave and replicate. Some of the chemicals in cigarette smoke have been shown to damage that DNA. For example, one such chemical - benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) belongs to class of chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. BAP damages our DNA at a site that we think protects our cells from cancer.
But other chemicals present in cigarette smoke can make the situation even worse. Because chemicals in cigarette smoke like the metal chromium can make toxic molecules stick to our DNA. This means that damaged cells are more likely to turn cancerous in the future. There are also the chemicals in cigarette smoke that can harm the systems our bodies use to remove toxins. This means that people who smoke have bodies that are less able to remove toxic chemicals from their bodies.
PAHs in the system
PAHs are formed during the incomplete combustion of organic materials including meat, wood and tobacco. Over 500 PAHs and their derivatives have been identified in tobacco smoke. Most are harmful and some, including some found in cigarette smoke are carcinogenic. This includes BAP. It is widely recognised that active and second-hand smoking are sources of toxic PAHs.
Identifying PAHs in the body is important for public health initiatives that are aimed at reducing exposure to these chemicals and reducing their impact through smoking. Analysing PAHs and their biomarkers in human samples is recognised as one method of identifying the effects of smoking. Chromatography in conjunction with mass spectrometry has recently been used to show that smokers have a significantly higher concentration of PAHs in their body. The use of GC-MS to analyse samples for foreign chemicals is the topic of the article Workflow solution for antidoping analysis including steroids in urine with GC-QqQ and GC-HRAM.
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