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Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2000 Jul;73(5):331-8.

Indoor exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide in traditional houses in Burundi.

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Département de médecine du travail et d'hygiène du milieu, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada.



Wood combustion is used as a major energy source in African countries and could result in indoor, pollution-related health problems. This exploratory study was undertaken to estimate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and carbon monoxide exposure in individuals living in traditional rural houses in Burundi.


Standard methods were used to determine indoor air concentrations of 12 PAHs, and carbon monoxide. The urinary excretion of 1-hydroxypyrene (1-OHP) was measured in occupants of traditional houses, and compared with that of individuals living in the town of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.


Mean airborne concentration of four volatile PAHs, naphthalene, fluorene, phenanthrene and acenaphthene, exceeded 1 microg/m3, and that of benzo(a)pyrene was 0.07 microg/m3. Naphthalene was by far the main PAH contaminant, with a mean concentration (+/- standard deviation) of 28.7+/-23.4 microg/m3, representing on average 60-70% of total PAH concentration. Carbon monoxide mean concentration (+/- standard deviation) was 42+/-31 mg/m3, and correlated with total PAH concentration. Geometric mean urinary 1-OHP excretion (range) in people living in traditional houses was 1.50 (0.26-15.62) micromol/mol creatinine, a value which is on average 30 times higher than that of people living in the capital (0.05 (0.009-0.17) micromol/mol creatinine).


It appears that the substantially high concentrations of the studied contaminants constitute a potential health hazard to the rural population of Burundi.

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