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Innovation

Could your driveway give you cancer? Scientists find carcinogens in dust

Scientists have discovered that some homes with black parking lots have been found to have surprisingly large doses of carcinogens in their household dust.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

Pave your driveway recently?

Scientists have discovered that some homes with black parking lots have been found to have surprisingly large doses of carcinogens in their household dust.

According to a U.S. Geological Survey research team in Austin, Texas, some of the sticky, black sealants used to coat asphalt are made of coal tar, which contains polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Some PAHs are known or suspected carcinogens.

Led by Barbara Mahler, the team's linking of high quantities of these compounds in the environment with sealed parking lots has led to the banning of coal-tar sealants in Austin, Washington, D.C. and other cities.

Now, the scientists say coal tar sealant in household driveways is working its way into the home.

There is no direct evidence that dust with PAHs in it is harmful. But the concern is that kids and pets play inside and outside, putting things into their mouths and potentially putting themselves at risk.

In a study of 23 ground-floor apartments in Austin -- half of which still had coal tar–sealed parking lots made before the 2006 ban -- the total amount of PAHs was, on average, 25 times higher than apartments without coal tar-sealed lots.

Household habits -- cooking, candles, using the vacuum, pets, bicycles, etc. -- were not statistically significant to the results, the researchers said.

In the Texas study, 4 of the 11 homes with sealed driveways were above 10 micrograms of benzopyrene per gram of dust, with the highest rated at 24 micrograms. In comparison, Germany recommends benzopyrene limits of 10 micrograms per gram of dust.

Used to add shine and durability to asphalt driveways, coal-tar sealant can be found at any home improvement store.

[via Nature]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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