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PAHs underfoot: Contaminated dust from coal-tar sealcoated pavement is widespread in the United States

January 1, 2009

We reported in 2005 that runoff from parking lots treated with coal-tar-based sealcoat was a major source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to streams in Austin, Texas. Here we present new data from nine U. S. cities that show nationwide patterns in concentrations of PAHs associated with sealcoat Dust was swept from parking lots in six cities in the central and eastern U. S., where coal-tar-based sealcoat dominates use, and three cities in the western U. S., where asphalt-based sealcoat dominates use. For six central and eastern cities, median ?? PAH concentrations in dust from sealcoated and unsealcoated pavement are 2200 and 27 mg/kg, respectively. For three western cities, median ?? PAH concentrations in dust from sealcoated and unsealcoated pavement are similar and very low (2. 1 and 0. 8 mg/kg, respectively). Lakes in the central and eastern cities where pavement was sampled have bottom sediments with higher PAH concentrations than do those in the western cities relative to degree of urbanization. Bottom-sediment PAH assemblages are similar to those of sealcoated pavement dust regionally, implicating coal-tar-based sealcoat as a PAH source to the central and eastern lakes. Concentrations of benzo[a]pyrene in dust from coal-tar sealcoated pavement and adjacent soils greatly exceed generic soil screening levels, suggesting that research on human-health risk is warranted.