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Are Toxins in Your Driveway Sealant Creating a Health Risk?

EMSL Analytical provides testing services for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in coal tar based pavement sealers.


Cinnaminson, NJ, September 18, 2013

A freshly sealed asphalt driveway or parking lot provides a deep black appearance that looks attractive to property owners and can help to extend the life of the asphalt. These pavement sealers are often made up of a mixture of sand, clay, polymers, water and either asphalt or coal tar.

Pavement sealers that contain coal tar have come under increased scrutiny in recent years due to concerns over the presence of high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, commonly referred to as PAHs. PAHs are found naturally in the environment, but they can also be man-made. They can be created when products like coal, oil, gas and garbage are burned when the burning process is not complete.

When sealants that contain coal tar are used to seal asphalt, it can break off into small particles and dust due to daily use. Not only can these materials then be washed off into the environment and waterways, but they can also be tracked into homes, schools and other buildings. 

Just last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft Toxicology Review of benzo[a]pyrene (BaP). The compound can be found in coal tar and according to the review, BaP is carcinogenic to humans based on strong and consistent evidence in animals and humans.

“There are many types of PAHs and some have been identified as having carcinogenic and mutagenic properties,” reported Joe Frasca, Senior Vice President, Marketing at EMSL Analytical, Inc., a leading PAH testing laboratory. “As of 2013, both Minnesota and Washington have banned pavement sealers that contain coal tar. Other states and municipalities are also reportedly looking into similar bans.  Some major retailers have even stopped selling sealants that contain coal tar.  ESML provides testing services for BaP and other PAHs to help prevent exposure to these compounds for both humans and the environment.” 

EMSL has sponsored an online video about PAHs in pavement sealers that contain coal tar that can be seen at:

To learn more about testing for BaP and PAHs, please visit, call (800) 220-3675 or email .

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider of environmental, indoor air quality, consumer product and materials testing services and products for professionals and the general public. The company has an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies.



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