I am writing to share some good news about efforts to combat carcinogens. I recently joined U.S. Geological Survey scientists Peter Van Metre and Barbara Mahler and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell to announce the dramatic decrease in PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), a known carcinogen from coal tar sealants, found in Lady Bird Lake. You can watch the news story here. Austin was the first city to ban the use of coal tar sealants in 2006, and the announcement shows a 58% decrease in PAHs in Lady Bird Lake after the sealant was banned.
In Washington, I have worked to focus attention on this problem since 2003. In 2008, I secured legislative language calling upon EPA to develop human health assessment for PAH's. In 2011, EPA's Scientific Advisory Board released its review of the EPA's human health assessment. The EPA's 2011 report, "Assessment of Water Quality of Runoff from Sealed Asphalt Surfaces," found that coal-tar sealants create PAH runoff in amounts up to 1,000 times greater than asphalt-emulsion sealant, an alternative sealant used mostly in western states. My Coal Tar Sealants Reduction Act (H.R. 1625) would prohibit the manufacture, distribution, and use of coal tar sealants.
Good science can make a difference. This study is a wake-up call for policymakers. It is long past time for a nationwide coal tar sealant ban, and today's study shows that a ban can dramatically decrease the presence of carcinogens in our lakes.
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Whether it is on this or some other federal issue, I would like to hear from you.