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PAH volatilization following application of coal-tar-based pavement sealant

August 1, 2012

Coal-tar-based pavement sealants, a major source of PAHs to urban water bodies, have recently been identified as a source of volatile PAHs to the atmosphere. We tracked the volatilization of PAHs for 1 year after application of a coal-tar-based pavement sealant by measuring gas-phase PAH concentrations above the pavement surface and solid-phase PAH concentrations in sealant scraped from the surface. Gas-phase concentrations at two heights (0.03 and 1.28 m) and wind speed were used to estimate volatilization flux. The sum of the concentrations of eight frequently detected PAHs (ΣPAH8) in the 0.03-m sample 1.6 h after application (297,000 ng m-3) was about 5000 times greater than that previously reported for the same height above unsealed parking lots (66 ng m-3). Flux at 1.6 h after application was estimated at 45,000 μg m-2 h-1 and decreased rapidly during the 45 days after application to 160 μg m-2 h-1. Loss of PAHs from the adhered sealant also was rapid, with about a 50% decrease in solid-phase ΣPAH8 concentration over the 45 days after application. There was general agreement, given the uncertainties, in the estimated mass of ΣPAH8 lost to the atmosphere on the basis of air sampling (2–3 g m-2) and adhered sealant sampling (6 g m-2) during the first 16 days after application, translating to a loss to the atmosphere of one-quarter to one-half of the PAHs in the sealcoat product. Combining the estimated mass of ΣPAH8 released to the atmosphere with a national-use estimate of coal-tar-based sealant suggests that PAH emissions from new coal-tar-based sealcoat applications each year (~1000 Mg) are larger than annual vehicle emissions of PAHs for the United States.