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Review of the effects of Asphalt fume emission (VOCs and PAHs) in vitro, in vivo and human studies

Omran Taqi, Nastassja Lewinski1

1) Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA


Asphalt is abundantly available around human operations including road paving and roofing sites. However, their emissions and fumes (specifically volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)) have been found to have adverse effects on health. Asphalt fumes are a class 2A carcinogen and exposure can increase the risk of lung cancer, asthma, headache, fatigue, and other cardiovascular diseases.


We used three literature sources (Google Scholar, PubMed and Web of Science) to gather in vitro, animal in vivo, and human studies about VOCs and/or PAHs exposure, and specifically asphalt/bitumen exposure and their effects on lungs, as well as focusing on biomarker measurements, such as interleukin-8 (IL-8) concentration in blood and 1-hydroxypyrene (1-OHP) in urine samples.


Our review resulted in 80 papers describing various human, in vitro, and in vivo studies. Analyzing the biomarkers reported in these papers revealed that the IL-8 concentration in exposed cells/animals or workers in the asphalt industry is nearly double that of the unexposed control group, and the (1-OHP) concentration in exposed asphalt workers is nearly 11 times the amount of (1-OHP) as the control group.


Due to the limited number of research papers addressing in vitro studies on lung cells (A549 and BEAS-2B cells), future work should focus on developing optimal in vitro asphalt/bitumen exposure conditions for lung cells, as well as developing new technologies that can remove pollutants for people who work in industries with high levels of VOCs or PAHs exposure.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)

chemical and life science engineering


asphalt emission


Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology | Cell and Developmental Biology | Chemistry | Earth Sciences | Environmental Sciences | Life Sciences | Oil, Gas, and Energy | Research Methods in Life Sciences

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Nastassja A. Lewinski, Ph.D


© The Author(s)

Recommended Citation

Taqi O, Rozewski E, Fini E, Klein-Seetharaman J, Lewinski N. "Review of the effects of Asphalt fume emission (VOCs and PAHs) in vitro, in vivo and human studies." 2022 VCU Annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, April 20, 2022.

Review of the effects of Asphalt fume emission (VOCs and PAHs) in vitro, in vivo and human studies