Substance used to seal asphalt puts children at greater risk of cancer

Monday, March 10, 2014 by: PF Louis
Tags: asphalt sealant, cancer risk, children''s health

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(NaturalNews) The substance is often called pitch or tar and is made from coal tar. It's similar to the creosote used to water-seal telephone poles and railroad ties. And it functions as a sealant for aging asphalt roads, parking lots and driveways showing cracks and openings. There is a problem though: the sticky stuff is full of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), which are highly toxic and carcinogenic.

Thus far, two states, Washington and Minnesota, have banned the sale and use of coal tar sealants. Cities like Austin, TX, Madison, WI, and Washington, DC, have led the way in banning coal tar sealants, with around 40 local communities joining them. California is slowly getting to its own statewide measure for banning PAH sealants, and activists in Illinois are pushing for it also.

The stuff is sprayed manually or poured from open spigots lining the rear width of tanker trucks driving over roads blocked off for construction. It also has been the main sealant used for weathered parking lots and driveways; anywhere there's asphalt, these PAH-filled coal tar sealants can be used.

So how does this affect you and your kids?

After the job is done, walking on or around the area will fill your nostrils with the pungent chemical odors letting you know that the aromatic part of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are doing their thing, especially if the sun's out. That means you and others are breathing in carcinogenic and toxic PAHs.

A little here and there could perhaps be less dangerous. But it's estimated that each year about 85 million gallons of this carcinogenic toxic waste is painted across 170 square miles of American cities and suburbs, areas as big as the whole city of New Orleans. And, often, those PAH gases will keep on releasing or off-gassing for weeks or months.

Although gasoline-driven vehicles also release PAHs, coal tar sealants are more PAH-dense and generally release more of the chemicals than all the cars in the USA.

There's another aspect which involves PAHs getting into homes and offices as well. It comes after the gas may have all been released and the sealant becomes chipped or "abraded" from weather and traffic.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has discovered little sealant chips in suburban homes' driveway dust releasing benzo[a]pyrene at many times the level of what would require a toxic hazmat cleanup if it were in a larger public place.

So from the driveway into the home this PAH dust can go. There is no standard or threshold in the USA for benzo[a]pyrene in house dust. But there is in Germany. They say no more than 10 parts of benzo[a]pyrene should be in 1 million parts of house dust. Seems like this chemical is dangerous at low doses.

So there's another potential home- or other dwelling-invading chemical threat. USGS also determined that there was much less PAH content in the house dust of apartments located near parking facilities that were patched with non-coal-tar sealants.

PAHs are especially harmful to children aged six and younger. It's estimated that a young child's exposure to PAHs increases the risk of cancer 38-fold. Is the school patching up the parking lot or outdoor asphalt facilities? Better make sure they're using non-coal-tar sealants, which do exist. If they resist, you can refer them to (

In addition to being a personal health hazard, scientists are discovering coal tar sealant runoff in nearby creeks, ponds and other inland waterways. This pollution is harming other forms of life that depend on those waters. And it further reduces the amount of clean water within our borders.

Seems like we have to go out of our way to resist being poisoned by industry.

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