LOS ANGELES (CBS News) – In the race to combat climate change, the city of Los Angeles is employing a surprising new tactic — covering its streets in a grayish-white coating known as CoolSeal.

(CBS News)

It’s sprayed onto the roadway with trucks, then spread across the surface with squeegees. However, its impact extends far beyond the edge of the pavement.

Los Angeles, like so many other modern cities, is encased in thousands of miles of asphalt. And dark-colored asphalt absorbs between 80 and 95 percent of the sun’s rays, heating up not just the streets themselves but the entire surrounding area. So when temperatures in Southern California rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, surface temperatures on its asphalt roads can climb to 150. It exacerbates a phenomenon known as the “urban heat island effect,” which the EPA says can add up to 22 degrees Fahrenheit to the average air temperature in a city, compared to the surrounding area.

CoolSeal, which is made by a company called GuardTop, helps to reflect solar rays off asphalt so that less heat is actually absorbed. And according to the Bureau of Street Services, the L.A. streets that have been rendered lighter in color with CoolSeal are 10 to 15 degrees cooler on average than the L.A. streets that have not. That, in turn, keeps the neighborhood from heating up quite as much. Buildings in the area don’t need to use quite as much air conditioning, which can curb costs, benefiting residents’ wallets and the environment.

By cooling the ambient air, lighter-colored asphalt can also help prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths. Its higher reflectivity can save on energy needed to illuminate streets and parking lots when the sun starts to set. And according to the EPA, the air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and water quality depletion driven by heat islands can be mitigated by cool pavements as well.

The innovative sealcoat is admittedly very pricey, with L.A. reportedly footing a $40,000 bill for every mile it “paints.” But advocates say its benefits may just be priceless.

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Comments (15)
  1. benwelgoed says:

    . . . and the carbon footprint of this paint is . . . ? ? ?

  2. Dan Clayburn says:

    Cost of $240 mil. Do the math just for highways. Add alleys and it will cost another $32 mil. Question, how many homeless would this feed? I gotta look into cold seal stock. I’m sure the city govt members did.

  3. Where does the HEAT go? What will it do to traction? Lane lines? Stopping distance? Does it replace sealing the road and does the same job? Not only the HHH scam by the city. How about the unbalanced budget? The underfunded pension plans?

  4. A fool and his money are soon parted.

  5. Liberal solutions causing more problems while wasting revenue. The sun reflecting off of white streets is going to create a problem called Photokeratitis or ultraviolet keratitis. Those of us in the north know a form of Photokeratitis commonly referred to as” Snow blindness.” Painting the streets white (until traffic turns them black again) has the potential to cause traffic accidents and draining tax dollars…Not too mention carbon footprint of all that paint.

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