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I was walking with my daughter of 17 months old today on the sidewalk and I had to go through a work site where the workers were removing old macadam (tarmac?) on the road.

Since they were going slow, I had to pass them but since one machine was throwing particles of macadam in the back of a truck, I'm wondering about the risk my daughter went through, breathing this air (probably full of small particles?).

Do you know if this was bad for her health (and mine), or since it was not long (less than a minute for sure, and I was running) it should be ok?

Thank you for reassuring me!

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Tar (which is the black, foul-smelling stuff in tarmacadam, often called tarmac or macadam depending on where you live) does have an associated cancer risk, but only for occupational exposure. In other words, the workers who were removing that material should have been wearing masks and such to protect themselves, but you and your daughter were not exposed at dangerous levels.

It's pretty easy to find clickbaity headlines like Is Your Driveway Toxic? A troubling new report you need to see that suggest the very small amounts of dust from these surfaces that come into your house every day an accumulate over time and pose a risk that far outweighs a few minutes of walking past a construction site.

Note that the studies don't say "people who live near a lot of parking lots get more cancer." They just say "in apartments with a lot of parking lots nearby, the dust had a measurably higher level of a thing we know can cause cancer." Still, controlling the general urban-ness of where you live is probably far more important than avoiding momentary exposure at a roadworks site.

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  • Thank you for your clear answer. I was thinking the same but I was worried it was not the case. This clears the issue :) – Cyril N. Oct 17 '17 at 12:25

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