Common Pavement Sealer is Actually A Harmful Carcinogen

by , 01/21/10
filed under: Design, Design for Health

ashpalt, carcinogen, pavement sealer, cancer causing chemical, pavement,

Researchers have recently discovered that a commonly used sealant found on our parking lots, driveways and sidewalks is actually a harmful carcinogen. What’s even worse is that we pick up little particles of it on our shoes when we walk across these surfaces and track it into our homes! There are no known studies yet on the health effects, but there’s no sense in waiting. It’s time to ban this dangerous carcinogen from our lives.

ashpalt, carcinogen, pavement sealer, cancer causing chemical, pavement,

Parking lots and driveways east of the Continental Divide are typically coated with a coal-tar based sealant, and in the west, they usually use an asphalt based sealant. Turns out the coal-tar sealant contains 1000 times more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are by-products of fuel burning, than its asphalt-based counterpart. Researchers in Austin have found that the level of PAHs can be 25 percent higher in homes adjacent to parking lots with coal-tar sealant, which is a huge concern for those of you with children crawling around on the floor.

Researchers have been studying the problem for five years now and are working to get the EPA to ban the harmful sealant, but a nationwide ban will still take some time. But so far, Austin, Washington, D.C., and Dane County, Wisconsin have banned the sealant and Minnesota has banned its use by state agencies. More environmentally friendly options are limitedly available and are considerably more expensive, but in reality, it may not even be necessary to seal pavement at all.

Via Popular Mechanics

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  1. Democracry4u December 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    New Study Shows that USGS and City of Austin Pavement Sealer
    Studies are Flawed:
    Parking Lot Sealer Ban had NO Effect on Types and
    Amounts of PAHs in Austin’s Waterways.
    No Change in Amount or Sources of PAHs in Austin, Texas Years After Product Ban

    PAH Fingerprints Do Not Identify Pavement Sealants as Source

    ALEXANDRIA, Va., Dec. 9, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — More than two years after Austin, TX banned refined tar sealants, there has been no discernable change in either the amount or sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in sediment in Austin’s waterways. Austin’s ban went into effect on January 1, 2006.
    Results of a study of the ban’s impact were just published in a paper titled Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Austin Sediments After A Ban on Pavement Sealers in Environmental Forensics, the journal of the International Society of Environmental Forensics. Samples were collected from Austin’s streams before the ban, in October 2005, and again after the ban in April 2008. Total concentrations of PAHs in sediments before and after the ban did not change, as might be expected if sealants were the principal source of PAHs in sediments. According to the study’s author, Dr. Robert DeMott, the variation in individual PAHs is expected because PAHs are so common in so many different products. PAHs in the Austin samples were also evaluated using environmental forensics techniques. PAH fingerprinting of sediments collected before and after the ban did not identify any marked changes.
    PAHs are everywhere in the environment and are formed by burning organic matter.. PAHs are found in used motor oil, grilled meats and vegetables, exhaust from internal combustion engines and emissions from fossil fuel power plants, forest fires and volcanoes as well as products made from coal and petroleum. The follow-up study of sediments in Austin as well as the results of a PAH fingerprinting study presented at a recent meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) indicate that pavement sealants are not the principal source of PAHs in downstream sediments, as has been suggested by others. Both studies were sponsored by the Pavement Coatings Technology Council, which researches and promotes environmentally responsible practices by sealcoat applicators.
    SOURCE Pavement Coatings Technology Council
    Back to top

  2. Rod U January 24, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    I have to agree with TS.

    Just on first appearance, this story is so one sided it is ridiculous. What is the other side of the story? I would like to know that whole story before making a decision.

    If you want to get another side of the story, try truthaboutcoaltar dot com. I did a Google search and came upon this site.

    I have to say that I so disappointed in Popular Mechanics with this story. I thought they were about this type of nonsense.

  3. T.S. January 21, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    “There are no known studies yet on the health effects, but there’s no sense in waiting.”

    This sounds irrational.

    “More environmentally friendly options are limitedly available and are considerably more expensive.”

    This smells like shenanigans.

    Maybe we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves and ban things until we have proof, especially for such a widespread product that has already been in use for decades – most of the harm that’s done has been done, there is time to do a full study before immediate action is taken.

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