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There's A Time to Speak and A Time to be Silent

Springfield, Missouri continues to struggle to find a way forward from the current coal tar sealant debate.  I am all for an open debate ...

Springfield, Missouri continues to struggle to find a way forward from the current coal tar sealant debate.  I am all for an open debate as long as the participants attempt to be informed and speak without bias.  But if some haven't really read the reports and attempt to speak as an expert, then please hold your tongue.

One of the advocates for the continued use of coal tar is a Springfield-based architect, Geoffrey Butler.  In yesterday's Springfield newspaper, the News-Leader, this architect attempted to make the following points about coal tar sealants:
  1. Coal tar sealants don't cause cancer.
  2. There are also no sites in Springfield that have been tested where a human health hazard has been identified directly related to PAHs.
  3. The water supply in Springfield has not been affected by coal tar sealants.
  4. There have been no studies completed in Springfield that actually traced any PAHs found in Springfield streams and tributaries to the PAHs found in sealers with a refined coal tar base.
Springfield has a PAH problem, but Mr. Butler's uninformed arguments do not bring clarity to this issue.  Let's look at the "facts" that Mr. Butler represents here to you folks in Springfield.

Claim #1: Coal Tar Sealants Don't Cause Cancer

Notice that he neglects to refer to the product as "coal tar" sealant anywhere in his opinion. Why is this? Why did industry change the name of this product AFTER studies were made?

Any attempt to sanitize coal tar sealants does not change the fact that one of the ingredients of this product is "coal tar pitch" a KNOWN HUMAN CARCINOGEN. Watch this brief video by the USGS before the Springfield City Council in 2010 to learn more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKKvNihlgMI.

Don't believe the USGS? How about the National Institutes of Health? Here's what they say: "Coal tars and coal-tar pitches are known to be human carcinogens based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans."  http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/coaltars.pdf

Even the product information sheet for a coal tar pavement sealer says that the ingredient "coal tar pitch" is a known human carcinogen.

Since coal tar sealants or "refined tar" sealants contain a known human carcinogen (and in large quantities), the balance of his opinion about PAHs is irrelevant.

Claim #2: No Human Health Affected Sites in Springfield from PAHs 

The USGS found median level of PAH in parking dust is 4,760 ppm.  
In Springfield the mean was 1,538 ppm.
He says there are no sites in Springfield where a health hazard exists directly caused by coal tar sealants. Didn't he read the report by University of Missouri of samples taken throughout Springfield? Levels on SPRINGFIELD's parking lots are nearly 1,000 times higher than toxic effects levels. Two years ago, he argued that there was no PAH problem in Springfield.

Now he appears to make a clever comment that no one has specifically labeled these high levels as a health problem, but the levels are still just as high. Well, the concentration of PAH on Springfield lots is similar to the values that Baylor University used to find a high risk for causing cancer in children. Is that a health problem? Yes it is.

That is why doctors around this country have called for a reduction in the use of this product.  You can read about several doctors in Chicago who have said as much at this link.

Claim #3: Springfield's Water Supply Is Unaffected By PAH's

It is well established that PAHs are hydrophobic and generally not dissolved in water in great concentrations.  This point made by Mr. Butler is a strawman because no one claimed that the water supply was contaminated.  These statements are addressing Mr. Chiles recent comments about keeping Springfield's streams clean.  Banning coal tar sealants will be good for the stream health, which is comprised of the entire ecological system including water, sediment, and living creatures, not just the water supply itself.

Claim #4: There are No Studies in Springfield Linking PAH's in Streams with Coal Tar Sealers 

The same University of Missouri study found that the about 80% of the PAH stream pollution in Springfield is from coal tar sealants or "refined tar" sealants.  They found that the amount of coal tar sealed parking lot area is strongly related to the PAH level in Springfield's streams.  The more sealed area the higher the PAH level.  Enough said.

So Springfield, there is a time for silence and a time to speak up.  May more of the good people of Springfield speak up for the children and the future of your community.  

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Coal Tar Free America: There's A Time to Speak and A Time to be Silent
There's A Time to Speak and A Time to be Silent
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