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Ann Arbor Bans Use of Pavement Sealant High in PAHs

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Archived News Release: July 14, 2016 - ​Beginning this month, pavement sealant products containing greater than 0.1% Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) by weight, including coal tar-based sealer, are banned from use or sale within the city of Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor City Council adopted the new ordinance to help protect, restore and preserve water quality and the health of residents.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PAHs are of concern because of their harmful impacts on humans and the environment. They are persistent organic compounds, and several PAHs are known or probable human carcinogens and toxic to aquatic life.

With the ban, the City of Ann Arbor joins a number of communities in Washtenaw County and around the country who have banned coal tar sealants such as Austin and San Antonio, Texas, and Washington, D.C., as well as the states of Washington and Minnesota. The City of Ann Arbor long ago discontinued the use of such sealants on city projects and property.  

Coal tar-based sealant is applied widely on driveways, parking lots and even playgrounds as a maintenance practice. Coal tar sealcoats are hazardous. There are several alternatives that have significantly lower, or no, PAH content. Asphalt-based sealcoat has 1/1000th the PAH content of coal tar, and is readily available at similar cost. There are also safer acrylic- and latex-based options. The city website (www.a2gov.org/coaltar) has more details on the ban and tips on product labels to help avoid such products. If residents wish to report possible use of banned sealants or have additional questions, they can email staff directly at [email protected]. (View the USGS coal tar fact sheet, pictured on this page, in its entirety - PDF.) 

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Media Contact Information

Matt Naud
Environmental Coordinator
734.794.6430 ext. 43712
[email protected]


Ann Arbor has 123,851 residents, spans 28.97 square miles and is frequently recognized as a foremost place to live, learn, work, thrive and visit. To keep up with City of Ann Arbor information, subscribe for email updates, and follow the city on Twitter and Facebook. The city's mission is to deliver exceptional services that sustain and enhance a vibrant, safe and diverse community.