Benzopyrene is one of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds, suspected or proven carcinogens. It is found in smoke and soot where it then combines with dust particles in the air and is carried into water and soil and onto crops. Benzopyrene is also found in coal tar pitch and creosote.
People may be exposed to benzopyrene from occupational or environmental sources. Typically, exposure is not to benzopyrene alone but to a mixture of similar chemicals, such as in cigarette smoke. The largest sources of benzopyrene in the air are open burning and home heating with wood and coal. Contact exposure can occur from products that contain PAHs such as creosote-treated wood, asphalt roads, or coal tar. Some drinking water supplies in the United States have been found to contain low levels of the chemical. Foods grown in contaminated soil or air may contain benzopyrene. High cooking temperatures increases levels of benzopyrene.
The greatest exposure to benzopyrene is likely to take place in the workplace. People who work in coal tar production plants; coking plants; asphalt production plants; coal-gasification sites; smoke houses; municipal trash incinerators; and facilities that burn wood, coal, or oil may be exposed to benzopyrene in the workplace air. Benzopyrene may also be found in areas where high-temperature food fryers and ovens are used.