Virginia Bill Proposes Ban of Toxic Pavement Sealant

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Supports Legislation to Protect Virginians and Environment from Cancer-Linked Product

Toxic products used mainly to seal asphalt driveways for homes and neighborhoods would be prohibited in Virginia under legislation introduced by Del. Kathy Tran (House Bill 985). The bill, expected to be considered by the House Natural Resources subcommittee Jan. 24, prohibits the sale, distribution, and use of toxic pavement sealants.  

“Toxic pavement sealants put our children’s lives at risk and pollute our waterways,” Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) said. “Banning their sale is a commonsense action to ensure clean, safe water. I am so proud to work with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to pass our bill and prohibit selling this harmful product.”

Applied both commercially and privately, the sealant is a black liquid marketed as a pavement protector. These products contain high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that can harm people, birds, amphibians, fish, mammals, and plants. The bill would prohibit any pavement sealant with a PAH concentration greater than one percent by weight.   

“Any parent would agree that their child’s health is more important than their driveway,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Senior Scientist Joe Wood said. “The good news is that there are effective alternatives to these toxic pavement sealants and that communities that have banned this harmful product elsewhere have seen the benefits. This legislation would have profound effects on Virginians’ health and the environment.”

A USGS fact sheet shows that the excess cancer risk for people living adjacent to pavement treated with toxic sealants was 38 times higher, on average, than for those living near unsealed pavement.  

Dangerous chemicals can enter the environment through skin contact, such as a child sitting on a coated driveway. They can also be loosened when a car drives over pavement, then be washed off by rain or transported by the car’s tires.  

“When they look to seal or repair their driveway, many parents and Virginia residents don’t realize they might be applying a toxic product that causes cancer in people and in fish. Kids are the most vulnerable,” Wood said. “This legislation is a cost-effective way to protect the health of Virginia’s waterways and people.”

Stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot have stopped the sale of such sealants. Other types of asphalt sealants are available that are significantly less toxic, are priced similarly, and are widely available. Most highway departments and road agencies, including the Virginia Department of Transportation, have not used toxic pavement sealants on asphalt pavement for many years. Virginia’s neighbors, Maryland and Washington D.C., have both instituted bans.

PAHs have been detected in several fish and waterways throughout Virginia, correlating to freshwater mussel decline in the Clinch River. PAHs have also been a driver of fish cancer in the Elizabeth River. In addition, three experiments indicated significant negative impacts of PAHs on various early life stages of the Bay’s native oyster.   

Prohibitions on the use of toxic sealants have shown to be effective, with some places showing a 50 percent decline in toxins in waterways after only a few years. The EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program has prioritized PAHs as among the most critical toxic contaminant to rivers, streams, and Chesapeake Bay. 

The bill includes a grace period for applicators who may have already purchased PAH sealant products to use their existing supplies.  

Banning toxic pavement sealants is among the critical environmental issues CBF is prioritizing this legislative session. CBF urges the General Assembly to pass this bill to limit pollution and protect public health.  

The bill is part of the Jan. 24 agenda of the Natural Resources Subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources.  


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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