This month's issue of Reader's Digest (July/August 2012) demonstrates that coal tar sealant pollution has gone mainstream. With the largest circulation of any general interest magazine at over 5 million subscribers, this issue's article, Toxic Danger Zones in Your Backyard, is sure to have a positive ripple effect.
The article gives a concise summary of the problem: familiar coal tar driveway sealants could be polluting your backyard and/or home with toxic PAHs. Readers are encouraged to use less toxic asphalt-based sealants instead and take precautionary measures to minimize dragging sealer dust and debris into your home.
It also got me thinking about the last 6 years of media coverage on this topic. I have often described working to get attention to this problem is similar to starting a campfire with wet wood. Just when you think the facts and circumstances are compelling enough, interest peaks and then wanes to a smolder. However I think the kindling is getting drier all of the time!
Outside of local media coverage in Austin and technical journals, the first national media coverage, that I can recall, was just a line or two in a Consumer Reports' article on how to pick a sealant applicator. To my disappointment, the caution about sealants was only added in the electronic version of the magazine, not the print version. Then along came Popular Mechanics, MSNBC, the Chicago Tribune, the Oak Hill Gazette, TODAY Health/Rodale, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times.
While the age of electronic media has its downside, it has enabled a snowball-effect of growing awareness of this problem across the country and around the world. What publication with greater circulation is next? The next up on the list is Game Informer from the Game Stop shops around the country, but probably Better Homes and Gardens, USA Today or the Wall Street Journal would be better bets.