2. Sources of Human Exposure

  1. David O. Carpenter
  1. Martí Nadal and
  2. José L. Domingo

Published Online: 26 JUL 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118679654.ch2

Effects of Persistent and Bioactive Organic Pollutants on Human Health

Effects of Persistent and Bioactive Organic Pollutants on Human Health

How to Cite

Nadal, M. and Domingo, J. L. (2013) Sources of Human Exposure, in Effects of Persistent and Bioactive Organic Pollutants on Human Health (ed D. O. Carpenter), John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, USA. doi: 10.1002/9781118679654.ch2

Editor Information

  1. University at Albany, Institute for Health and the Environment

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 JUL 2013
  2. Published Print: 16 AUG 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781118159262

Online ISBN: 9781118679654



  • benzene;
  • health risk assessment;
  • human exposure pathways;
  • perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs);
  • persistent organic pollutants (POPs);
  • pesticides


Background: Persistent and bioactive organic pollutants may reach the human body through different pathways, which usually determine subsequent health effects. Although occupational exposure has a prominent role, the environmental/dietary contact with these substances may be also very important. Therefore, it is critical not only to identify but also to estimate the contribution of each one of the exposure pathways.

Objectives: This chapter presents current calculation methods to estimate the main pathways of exposure to organic pollutants. Information regarding a few chemicals (persistent organic pollutants, pesticides, benzene, and perfluoroalkyl substances) is also summarized.

Discussion: Direct (or nondietary) exposure can be estimated as the sum of pollutant intake through air inhalation (air concentration related), as well as soil ingestion and dermal absorption (both dependent of soil concentration). In turn, dietary exposure can be calculated by considering food intake and water consumption. Dietary intake seems to be the main human exposure route to organic contaminants such as POPs or pesticides, with only a few exceptions. To a lesser extent, other pathways may have some notable contribution, especially for particular subgroups of population characterized by being more vulnerable to environmental pollutants, such as children or aged people.

Conclusions: Some basic tools to perform a first-tier screening for human health risk assessment, focusing on human exposure, are provided here. Food consumption seems to be the most important contributive route to the total intake of persistent and bioactive organic pollutants.