Virginia Senators Show Historic Support for Toxic Sealant Ban

Legislation Protecting Virginians From Cancer-Linked Product Passes Committee

Virginians are closer than ever before to receiving protection from harmful toxic sealants commonly used to coat driveways.  

For the first time since being introduced three years ago, a bill that bans toxic pavement sealants passed the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources by a 11-3 bipartisan vote on Feb. 27.  

House Bill 985 patroned by Delegate Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, now heads to the full Senate for consideration. The bill cleared the House of Delegates by a 78-21 vote.  

“This ban is a commonsense action to protect our children’s lives and our waterways from dangerous pollutants,” Tran said. “Young children up to six years old are particularly vulnerable. I have little kids, and they play on the driveway. No parent would want their kids being exposed to these toxic substances.” 

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.    

A USGS fact sheet shows that the excess cancer risk for people living adjacent to pavement treated with toxic sealants is significantly higher than for those living near unsealed pavement. There are also detrimental impacts to the environment. 

“PAHs are definitely toxic. There really isn’t a question about that. When organisms, whether oysters, mice, or fish, are exposed to these products in research studies, they have caused negative health effects,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Senior Scientist Joe Wood said.

Michael Jones, who owns Jones Striping and SealCoating in Petersburg, told Senate committee members that his company stopped using the toxic sealant in 2015 and switched to a safer alternative sealant.  

“We did learn that it was a carcinogen. We learned it was toxic and harms the skin,” Jones said. “We did this for the health of our clients, our employees, and the environment. This still keeps us competitive.” 

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 and three experiments indicated significant negative impacts of PAHs on various early life stages of the Bay’s native oyster. According to one experiment, mice exposed to these sealants develop "mutations in bone marrow, liver, lung, small intestine, and glandular stomach.”  

These 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.   

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. 

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.   


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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