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Congressman Doggett Chronicles Concerns That Led to National Coal Tar Ban Legislation

from the March/April Issue of the Austin Region Sierra Club re: H.R. 4166 The Coal Tar Sealant Reduction Act of 2012 by Rep. Lloyd Dogget...

from the March/April Issue of the Austin Region Sierra Club re: H.R. 4166 The Coal Tar Sealant Reduction Act of 2012
by Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Not Just a Problem at Barton Springs
In 2003 when Austin officials raised initial concerns about the environmental and health impact of coal tar sealants used on playgrounds, parking lots, and other paved surfaces with me, I contacted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) several times. In 2005, I was pleased that city government took action to ban coal tar sealants. Other communities, however, have not been as diligent in protecting their citizens from these substances. These pollutants not only get washed into local waterways after a rainfall but can be tracked into our homes simply as dust on the soles of our shoes. Communities are threatened elsewhere in Texas and across the Nation.

Federal Action

Although other local communities have taken action (visit for an excellent summary), we cannot wait for all other communities simply to catch up to Austin. That is why I have introduced the Coal Tar Sealants Reduction Act. This legislation would phase out these coal tar-based sealants nationwide. Alternative products are already on the marketplace. In fact, Lowe’s and Home Depot have already committed not to stock the coal tar sealants.

When Austin first identified the problem with coal tar sealants contaminating the well-loved Barton Springs, I urged the Environmental Protection Agency to take action. Despite compelling scientific literature, including findings by local U.S. Geological Survey scientists Dr. Barbara Mahler and Dr. Peter Van Metre, the former Administration, perhaps unsurprisingly, failed to take up the issue. It is encouraging that under the direction of Administrator Lisa Jackson we have finally seen progress, slow as it is.

Why We Must Act

Coal tar sealants contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs can be problematic for many reasons, such as causing mutations and birth defects in aquatic life. According to the EPA, some PAHs are probable human carcinogens. This raises alarms when we consider that one possible point of exposure to PAHs from coal tar sealants is in the form of dust that is tracked into homes. Children may be particularly vulnerable because of the amount of time they spend on the floor and their tendency to put objects and dirty fingers into their mouths.

Coal tar sealants may not be the only source of human exposure to PAHs in our homes (other potential culprits include tobacco smoking and fireplace use), but that is no excuse for inaction.

Sealing the Deal

The Coal Tar Sealants Reduction Act is commonsense legislation that will benefit our ecosystem and the health of Texans and other Americans. As we enter the second year of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, I hope that you will continue to join me in protecting our environment and our health by talking about coal tar sealants with your family, friends, and neighbors. 


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Coal Tar Free America: Congressman Doggett Chronicles Concerns That Led to National Coal Tar Ban Legislation
Congressman Doggett Chronicles Concerns That Led to National Coal Tar Ban Legislation
Coal Tar Free America
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