Photograph shows fluorescing PAHs absorbed through skin  just by gripping a rubber handle with PAHs.
Similar effects on human skin can be seen with coal tar sealant exposure.
Photograph: TÜV Rheinland Group
The German Federation continues to demonstrate leadership to the world in managing exposure and contamination from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  This is evidenced by their recent publication entitled, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons: Harmful to the Environment! Toxic! Inevitable? While the US regulatory system hasn't even figured out what or how to fix PAH pollution from coal tar sealcoated paved surfaces, Germany, on the other hand, already has standards for the amount of coal tar in asphalt (and the US doesn't) and is expanding their knowledge into consumer products.

By the way, the above photograph shows a similar method to what was used by the City of Austin early in its ban to view not only ban violators, but also to show potential skin exposure.  Anyone want to wager what a child playing on a coal tar sealed surface would look like under a blacklight?


One of the existing laws in Germany and the European Union is the REACH law that shifts the burden of proof of the human and environmental safety of chemicals and their byproducts to the place that it belongs: with INDUSTRY. When have we seen anything remotely like this for the coal tar sealant industry? Never.  This is the dodge that we see so often: "PAHs are everywhere, so why are you picking on us?," instead of forthrightly answering the safety questions of their products.

Coal tar in pavement ended in Germany in 1990, but the report mentions the US practice of using tar on parking lots and filling stations as existing to this day like a strange relic of the past.  Their provisions for recycling old coal tar material follow (keep in mind that coal tar sealants have as much as 30,000 mg/kg PAH):

  • Less than 10 mg/kg total PAH acceptable in all pavement materials
  • Up to 25 mg/kg total PAH are considered "pitch containing" which requires special construction to avoid releases
  • Greater than 1,000 mg/kg is deemed "harmful waste."
So what does that make a freshly applied coal tar surface to be?


The report also looks at various aspects of PAH pollution by answering these fundamental questions:
  1. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons – Problem Chemicals? 
  2. Where do PAHs Come From? 
  3. Why Are PAHs Such a Concern? 
  4. The Path of PAHs into the Environment and to the Consumer Which Products May Contain PAHs? 
  5. What Legislation is in Place with Respect to PAHs? 
  6. A German Initiative: PAH Limit for all Consumer Products. 
  7. What Can Each Individual Do? 
We could only hope that we would see that there is a better way for us to go.  Until then ich bin ein Berliner!

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