Asphalt plants mix gravel and sand with crude oil derivatives to make the asphalt used to pave roads, highways and parking lots across the U.S. These plants release millions of pounds of chemicals to the air during production each year, including many cancer-causing toxic air pollutants such as arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and cadmium. Other toxic chemicals are released into the air as the asphalt is loaded into trucks and hauled from plant sites, including volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and very fine condensed particulates.

Asphalt fumes are known toxins.

The federal Environ-mental Protection Agency states, “Asphalt processing and asphalt roofing manufacturing facilities are major sources of hazardous air pollutants such a formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter and toluene. Exposure to these air toxics may cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems and skin irritation.”

The Blue Ridge Environ-mental Defense League, a North Carolina regional environmental organization, has done a study on the adverse impacts on property values and health for residents living near asphalt plants. A property value study documented losses of up to 56 percent because of the presence of a nearby asphalt plant.

In addition to smokestack emissions, large amounts of harmful fugitive emissions are released as the asphalt is moved around in trucks and conveyor belts and is stored in stockpiles. Stagnant air and local weather patterns often increase the level of these pollutants that are released from a facility. Yet government agencies sometimes use computers and mathematical formulas to estimate these emissions rather than actual stack testing. Experts agree the estimates do not accurately predict the amount of toxic fugitive emissions released and the risks they pose. Only 40 percent of the emissions from asphalt plant smokestacks meet air quality standards and for the other 60 percent of these emissions, the state lacks sufficient data to determine safe levels.

Be safe. Take precautionary action to protect our community from asphalt plant air pollution!

References: US EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Fifth Edition, Volume 1, Chapter 11,

Donald R. Kuhn



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