A leading scientist in the U.S. has revealed that a class of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), a compound found in oil which is not considered to be a carcinogen by scientists to date, is actually toxic to the developing hearts of fish.
The relevance of this finding lies in the fact that the same class of PAH is found in emissions from the burning of gasoline and other petroleum products, emissions that are ubiquitous in urban air.
"There is now an emerging link between ambient urban air and human heart diseases," said John Incardona of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"Our analysis indicates that these airborne contaminants are likely to be toxic to the human heart when inhaled and should be considered prime suspects in the cardiovascular impacts of urban air," he added.
Incardona revealed these facts while making a presentation in a symposium entitled 'From Kitchen Sinks to Ocean Basins: Emerging Chemical Contaminants and Human Health', organised by NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative.
The subject of his presentation was how one type of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, a compound found in oil, damaged the developing hearts of Pacific herring and pink salmon embryos after the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989.
He pointed out that certain PAHs were recognized as carcinogenic more than a century ago, but this particular class of PAHs with a different structure was ruled out as a carcinogen and was largely ignored.