Besides urban runoff as a pathway, PAH can originate from atmospheric fallout of particulates from naturally occurring combustion sources like forest fires or from fossil fuel combustion - incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials like oil, wood, garbage, and coal. Automobile exhaust and industrial emissions are additional sources. They contain high levels of PAHs. More PAHs form when materials burn at low temperatures such as in wood fires and cigarettes than in high-temperature furnaces.
Many useful products such as mothballs, blacktop, and creosote wood preservatives contain PAHs. They are also found at low concentrations in some special purpose skin creams and anti-dandruff shampoos that contain coal tars.