In a day and age when it seems like something new pops up every day that is bad for us, it’s hard to know what to believe. It may seem like these things come out of nowhere and sometimes they may. However, we live in an age when we are the most technologically advanced that we have ever been as a society. That means we have the means and technology to discover things that were previously unknown. The truth is that there is a lot of time and research that goes into these findings.

One of those issues that is affecting the sealcoating industry is the subject of coal-tar-based sealcoats. Sealcoat is the black, viscous liquid sprayed or painted on many asphalt parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds to protect and enhance the appearance of the underlying asphalt. Recent studies have shown that they are not safe to use for a number of reasons. We’ll go over those in a little more detail. What you need to first know is that they should no longer be considered safe to use. They may be a more cost effective way to sealcoat asphalt but that comes at a cost.

Human Health Concerns From Coal-Tar

Let’s get right down to it. Coal-Tar-Based sealants have been shown to be major source of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH). Why does this matter? PAH has been shown to elevate the risk of cancer, especially in young children. When exposed to PAH, Health professionals have been able to identify an increased risk of lung, skin, bladder, and respiratory cancers.

So how does this happen? There are a couple of ways. Studies by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), academic institutions, and State agencies have determined that coal-tar-based sealants are a major source of PAH. There are several ways that people can exposed to the chemical.

The most obvious way is by the people on the front lines. The Asphalt Sealcoating companies that have been applying this substance for years. It was not previously known to be a contributor to cancer so companies were not knowingly putting their workers in danger. In most cases, workers took proper precautions to begin with by wearing protective gear like face masks, goggles and gloves when applying the material. This is not the case for all companies though. The harmful chemical can be inhaled or spread to the mouth, eyes, and nose by touch if proper protective equipment was not worn.

Another way this can spread is indirectly. If you have this coal-tar-based sealants on your property or adjacent to it then you could be bringing the chemical into your home. Small particles can be tracked into the home. This can mix with household dust and can then be inhaled or ingested without knowing it.

There are also indirect risks. The way that asphalt is laid out is designed for water to runoff so that there is no standing water, which can be damaging to asphalt. This method allows runoff to make its way into soil and even water supplies. Most parking lots have drainage that runs to a sewer or a source that leads to water. In this way, PAH can impact not only humans because they can be ingested through the water supply but also because it can cause environmental damage.

Consequences To Our Environment

There have been multiple studies that have shown that PAH can be damaging and even lethal to aquatic life. Runoff for coal-tar-based sealants will eventually find its way into a water supply, especially if you live near large bodies of water. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have both found that coal-tar-based runoff is lethal to young species of fish. In a study conducted, Exposure to runoff from coal-tar-sealed pavement collected as much as 42 days after sealcoat application resulted in 100 percent mortality to two commonly tested laboratory organisms: day-old fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) and water fleas (Ceriodaphnia dubia). In contrast, minnows and water fleas exposed to runoff from unsealed pavement experienced no more than 10 percent mortality.

There Are Other Options

Coal-tar-sealants are not the only sealants that are available. New technology has allowed the development of products like SafeSeal. SafeSeal is a NON-coal-tar-based sealant that has the same performance and qualities as the former.

Pavement Sealer Safe Seal® is environmentally friendly NON -Coal Tar

The bottom line is that this is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. No matter how much you can save by using a coal-tar-based sealant you should be using an alternative. There are even local and state mandated areas where you can no longer use the coal-tar-based sealants. If you would like to make the switch, learn more about SafeSeal here. If you would like to find out more about the issues of using coal-tar-based sealants then you can reference this document.

Coal-Tar-Based Pavement Sealcoat—Potential Concerns for Human Health and Aquatic Life