MADISON, Wis. – Clean Wisconsin hailed the Milwaukee Common Council’s unanimous decision Tuesday to restrict the sale and use of coal tar-based sealants and other pavement sealants that contain high-levels of cancer-causing compounds called PAHs.

Pavement sealants, also known as “sealcoats” or “sealers,” are coatings homeowners and contractors apply to residential, commercial, and industrial driveways and parking lots. Pavement sealants contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are toxic compounds that can cause cancer and developmental problems in children and adults. The American Medical Association and other public health groups are urging local and state governments to ban tar-based sealants due to their harmful health effects.

A recent peer-reviewed study found that 77 percent of the PAH pollution in Milwaukee-area streambeds came from tar-based sealants.

“The chemicals in those sealants can pose a real threat to public health, our water, and aquatic ecosystems. We’re thrilled the members of the Milwaukee Common Council understand the seriousness of the threat and took decisive action to curb the use of these dangerous products,” said Tyson Cook, Director of Science and Research at Clean Wisconsin.

According to a study from the U.S. Geological Survey and Baylor University, children who live where driveways or parking lots are coated with tar-based sealants have a 14 times higher cancer risk than children who grow up in homes where alternative sealants are used. PAHs kill small organisms living on the bottoms of rivers and streams and can cause tumors in fish and other large aquatic animals.

 “There are safer alternatives on the markets and many major retailers have already voluntarily stopped selling tar-based sealants, but much work still needs to be done to educate the public and policy makers about this health hazard,” said Ezra Meyer, Water Resource Specialist at Clean Wisconsin. “Milwaukee’s decision to restrict high-PAH sealants will go a long way toward keeping these cancer-causing chemicals out of people’s homes and out of the water.”