The DC Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) last week released the first standardized testing protocol in the nation for detecting toxic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in pavement sealants. PAHs are carcinogenic chemicals that have polluted rivers and other urban waterways in the District. This protocol and funding from the U.S. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program will help DOEE develop a first-of-its-kind list of low-PAH sealant products for use by consumers.
Pavement sealants protect asphalt driveways and parking lots from wear and tear, and the toxic PAHs found in these sealants can run off into our waterways via stormwater or travel as dust into schools, apartments, and other buildings where they may be inhaled or ingested by residents. These pollutants disproportionately affect minority and low-income populations.
DOEE passed a ban on sealants containing coal tar in 2008 and expanded the ban to all high-PAH products in 2019. The law is one of the strictest in the country and a first for a city of its size.
The testing protocol is available for public comment until December 6 and will be used to create a list of pavement sealant products known to be low in PAHs. See more information here.