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As Spring Rolls Around, Toxic Asphalt Sealant is in The Air

Spring is here, and with that, the season of sealing asphalt driveways and parking lots is upon us. While asphalt is typically used to improve the appearance of pavement and prolong its lifespan, it can, unfortunately, be as toxic as it tends to smell. According to Wisconsin Public Radio, asphalt seal coats contain coal tar, […]

As Spring Rolls Around, Toxic Asphalt Sealant is in The Air

Spring is here, and with that, the season of sealing asphalt driveways and parking lots is upon us.
While asphalt is typically used to improve the appearance of pavement and prolong its lifespan, it can, unfortunately, be as toxic as it tends to smell. According to Wisconsin Public Radio, asphalt seal coats contain coal tar, a well-known hazard to the environment and to personal health.
In a recently published U.S. Geological Survey, researchers found that coal tar-based asphalt sealants that are applied to driveways, parking lots, and other areas can find their way into places they should not be, such as schools and homes.

Asphalt can also be used as a roofing material, and comes in two kinds of shingles, organic and fiberglass. However, unlike sealants, these materials aren’t responsible for exposure to toxic carcinogens via inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact.
Additionally, those who work with these seal coats on a regular basis can suffer from prolonged exposure when handling or applying products with a coal tar base.
Asphalt sealant isn’t only bad for human health — it’s also bad for the health of the environment. Stormwater runoff brings the chemicals from sealants from parking lots and driveways into storm drains. From there, this contaminated water flows into streams, lakes, and other areas, proving to be toxic to aquatic life.
So how can families protect themselves from the dangers of asphalt sealants? Wisconsin Public Radio reports that the the best means of protection are awareness and consumer empowerment. Writer David S. Liebl writes:
“When hiring a company to seal a driveway or parking lot, consumers (homeowners, businesses, schools, churches and municipalities) can insist that only non-coal tar-based sealants be used. While most home improvement stores now offer coal tar-free asphalt sealants, many commercial sealcoat applicators prefer coal tar sealcoats because of lower costs.”
Additionally, Liebl recommends that consumers educate themselves and their families on the risks and hazards of coal tar sealants.

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