ORLANDO, Fla. — The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted new policy aimed at reducing or ending the use of common coal-tar-based sealcoats that are used and applied on pavement and playgrounds across the country. The new policy advocates for legislation either to ban the use of pavement sealcoats containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) or to mandate the use of sealcoat products with minimal PAH. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, PAH compounds have been proven to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic to humans.

“Whether they are sending their children to a playground or repairing a driveway, Americans are potentially being exposed to harmful carcinogens in coal-tar-based sealcoats,” said AMA Board member Albert J. Osbahr III, M.D. “Even if one’s exposure is limited, as sealcoats erode over time, PAHs leach into the water, soil, and air, finding their way into sediment and eventually into aquatic wildlife. We must take action to either eliminate the use of PAH altogether or dramatically reduce its concentration in coal-tar sealcoats.”

Studies show that individuals with lifelong exposure to coal-tar sealcoat-treated pavements and playgrounds have a 38-fold higher risk of cancer. Already, Washington, Minnesota, Washington, D.C., and counties, townships and municipalities in many other states, including Michigan, have banned the use of coal-tar sealcoats. Alternatives to coal-tar-based sealcoats, including asphalt, acrylic, or latex sealcoats, have low or no PAHs and are available at a similar cost.

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