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Press Release

Legislators: EPA Work on Toxic Paving Products Incomplete

Influential AMA Urges the Ban of Coal Tar Pavement Sealcoat

WASHINGTON D.C., November 21, 2016:  In a major step toward getting coal tar sealants off American streets, four leaders in the House of Representatives urged Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to continue the EPA’s efforts in regulating these dangerous products.Coal tar sealant is a common, but toxic black liquid used to beautify and protect asphalt paving. While more than 20 million Americans are already protected through state or local bans, most Americans are still exposed on a routine basis at their homes, businesses, and schools. The toxins in coal tar sealants are linked to cancer, asthma, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems. Children remain particularly at risk.
In another victory for public health, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially recommended a national ban on coal tar sealants as a national health priority.
“Whether they are sending their children to a playground or repairing a driveway, Americans are potentially being exposed to harmful carcinogens in coal-tar-based sealcoats,” said AMA Board member Albert J. Osbahr III, MD. “Even if one’s exposure is limited, as sealcoats erode over time, PAHs leach into the water, soil and air, finding their way into sediment and eventually into aquatic wildlife. We must take action to either eliminate the use of PAH altogether or dramatically reduce its concentration in coal-tar sealcoats.”
The letter was coordinated by Congressman Lloyd Doggett (TX), who has provided leadership on this issue since 2003. When chemicals from coal tar sealants were discovered in Austin waters, he joined the push to stop their use. Since then, Austin became the first city in the country to ban the use of coal tar sealants, and has seen dramatic reductions in the chemical levels in the main waterbody, Lady Bird Lake. San Antonio is the most recent—and largest—city to ban the use of coal tar sealants.
“We must listen to our scientists and public health experts,” said Congressman Doggett.  “It is long past time for a nationwide coal tar sealant ban.”
Earlier this year, the EPA agreed to restrict the use of coal tar sealers at some permitted industrial facilities starting in 2019. Rep. Doggett, Rep. Jared Huffman, Rep. Matt Cartwright, and Rep. Jim McDermott asked the EPA about its plans to further control the use of these sealants to protect the health of more American communities. You can read their full letter here.
 “The endorsement and support of the these Congressmen and the AMA builds upon years of work in the field and on the phone by scientists, concerned citizens, elected officials and medical professionals,” added Tom Ennis of Coal Tar Free America.  “We look forward to the positive impact these two events can have at the national as well as the local level.”
The Huron River Watershed Council has successfully promoted bans of coal tar bans in suburban Detroit. Still their Executive Director, Laura Rubin, sees the need for regional solutions. “Community members and local officials in our area are demanding action to reduce PAH contamination in our homes, lakes and rivers. While they have taken local action, pollution moves downstream. Only a federal commitment to remove toxic sealcoats from use will address this ubiquitous and mobile source of pollution.”
As the next administration takes shape in Washington, let us remember that solid business-based decisions were made by our nation’s largest home improvement companies to end their sale of coal-tar based pavement sealcoat. Both Home Depot and Lowes recognized that the liability of carrying these toxic products, when suitable replacements exist, exceeds their benefits. As one legislator said, “If it isn’t good enough for their shelves, then it’s not good enough for my community.”
Supporters of the national action include:
         Waterkeeper Alliance
         Apalachicola Riverkeeper
         Coal Tar Free America
         Conservation Law Foundation
         Ecological Rights Foundation
         Galveston Baykeeper
         Huron River Watershed Council
         Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper
        NY/NJ Baykeeepr
         Our Children's Earth Foundation
         Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
         Snake River Waterkeeper

And the following is a partial list of other groups have either signed onto comment letters asking state agencies to ban coal tar sealants, or lobbied at the state level to get coal tar off the streets in their state: 

National Resources Defense Council (DC)
Connecticut Fund For the Environment
Long Island Soundkeeper (NY)
Hudson Riverkeeper (NY)
League of Conservation Voters (Michigan, Wisconsin offices)
League of Women Voters (Illinois)
Sierra Club (Illinois)
Physicians for Social Responsibility (Texas, Maine, Chicago, New York)
Save Lake Superior Association
Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (Texas)
Lake George Waterkeeper (NY)
Buffalo Riverkeeper (NY)
Freshwater Futures
Natural Resources Council of Maine
Group for the East End (NY)
Citizens Campaign for the Environment (NY)
Concerned Citizens of Montauk (NY)
Long Island Pine Barrens Society (NY)
North Fork Audubon Society (NY)
North Fork Environmental Council (NY)
Peconic Sound Shore Association (NY)
Save Sag Harbor (NY)
Nature Conservancy, (Long Island NY)
Maine Municipal League
Environmental Defenders of McHenry County
Health Schools Campaign (IL)
Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago
Illinois Environmental Council
Illinois Public Health Association
Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association
Bird Conservation Network (IL)
Moms Clean Air Force (IL, TX)
The Conservation Foundation (IL)
Environmental Working Group (CA)
DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup (IL)
Friends of the Chicago River (IL)
Breast Cancer Fund
California Coastkeeper Alliance
California League of Conservation Voters
Clean Water Action (CA)
Clean Water Network (CA)
Environment California
Environmental Defense Fund (CA)
The Help Group (CA)
San Francisco Baykeeper (CA)
Santa Clara Valley Water District (CA)
Save The Bay (CA)
Sierra Club California
South Coast Air Quality Management District (CA)
Surfrider Foundation (CA)

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