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The gaseous fraction of hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs) in ambient air appears to be responsible for a significant portion of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)‐mediated activity, but the majority of compounds contributing to this activity remain unidentified. This study investigated the use of polyethylene passive samplers (PEs) to isolate gaseous HOCs from ambient air for use in in vitro bioassays and to improve our understanding of the toxicological relevance of the gaseous fraction of ambient air in urban and residential environments. Concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and organic flame retardants (OFRs) were measured in PE extracts. Extracts were also analyzed using an in vitro bioassay to measure AhR‐mediated activity. Bioassay‐derived benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) equivalents (BaP‐Eqbio), a measure of potency of HOC mixtures, were greatest in the downtown Cleveland area and lowest at rural/residential sites further from the city center. BaP‐Eqbio was weakly correlated with concentrations of 2‐ring alkyl/substituted PAHs and one organophosphate flame retardant, ethylhexyl diphenyl phosphate (EHDPP). Potency predicted based on literature‐derived induction equivalency factors (IEFs) explained only 2‐23% of the AhR‐mediated potency observed in bioassay experiments. This study suggests that health risks of gaseous ambient air pollution predicted using data from targeted chemical analysis may underestimate risks of exposure, most likely due to augmentation of potency by unmonitored chemicals in the mixture, and the lack of relevant IEFs for many targeted analytes.

Lohmann_ArylHydrocarbon_2019_SI.docx (3337 kB)
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