A solid-phase microextraction (SPME) procedure has been developed for the determination of 16 US Environmental Protection Agency promulgated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Five kinds of SPME fibers were used and compared in this study. The extracted sample was analyzed by gas chromatography with flame ionization detection or mass spectrometry. Parameters affecting the sorption of analyte into the fibers, including sampling time, thickness of the fiber coating, and the effect of temperature, have been examined. Moreover, the feasibility of headspace SPME with different working temperatures was evaluated. The method was also applied to real samples. The 85-μm polyacrylate (PA) and 100-μm poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) fibers were shown to have the highest affinities for the selected PAHs. The PA fiber was more suitable than the PDMS fiber for the determination of low-ring PAHs while high sensitivity of high-ring PAHs was observed when a 100-μm PDMS fiber was used. The method showed good linearity between 0.1 and 100 ng/ml with regression coefficients ranging from 0.94 to 0.999. The reproducibility of the measurements between fibers was found to be very good. The precisions of PA and PDMS fibers were from 3 to 24% and from 3 to 14%, respectively. Headspace SPME is a valid alternative for the determination of two- to five-ring PAHs. A working temperature of 60°C provides significant enhancement in sensitivity of two- to five-ring PAHs having low vapor pressures (>10-6 mmHg at 25°C) (1 mmHg=133.3 Pa) and low Henry's constants (>10 atm ml/mol) (1 atm=1.01.105 Pa). Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.