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PLoS One. 2021 Jun 4;16(6):e0252719. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0252719. eCollection 2021.
BACKGROUND: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous organic compounds associated with chronic disease in epidemiologic studies, though the contribution of PAH exposure on fatal outcomes in the U.S. is largely unknown.
OBJECTIVES: We investigated urinary hydroxylated PAH metabolites (OH-PAHs) with all-cause and cause-specific mortality in a representative sample of the U.S. population.
METHODS: Study participants were ≥20 years old from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2014. Concentrations (nmol/L) of eight OH-PAHs from four parent PAHs (naphthalene, fluorene, phenanthrene, pyrene) were measured in spot urine samples at examination. We identified all-cause, cancer-specific, and cardiovascular-specific deaths through 2015 using the National Death Index. We used Cox proportional hazards regression to estimate adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association between ΣOH-PAHs and mortality endpoints. We assessed potential heterogeneity by age, gender, smoking status, poverty, and race/ethnicity. Additionally, we examined the overall mixture effect using quantile g-computation.
RESULTS: In 9,739 eligible participants, there were 934 all-cause deaths, 159 cancer-specific deaths, and 108 cardiovascular-specific deaths (median 6.75 years follow-up). A log10 increase in ΣOH-PAHs was associated with higher all-cause mortality (HRadj = 1.39 [95%CI: 1.21, 1.61]), and possibly cancer-specific mortality (HRadj = 1.15 [95%CI: 0.79, 1.69]), and cardiovascular-specific mortality (HRadj = 1.49 [95%CI: 0.94, 2.33]). We observed substantial effect modification by age, smoking status, gender, and race/ethnicity across mortality endpoints. Risk of cardiovascular mortality was higher for non-Hispanic blacks and those in poverty, indicating potential disparities. Quantile g-computation joint associations for a simultaneous quartile increase in OH-PAHs were HRadj = 1.15 [95%CI: 1.02, 1.31], HRadj = 1.41 [95%CI: 1.05, 1.90], and HRadj = 0.98 [95%CI: 0.66, 1.47] for all-cause, cancer-specific, and cardiovascular-specific mortalities, respectively.
DISCUSSION: Our results support a role for total PAH exposure in all-cause and cause-specific mortality in the U.S. population.