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5 Things to Consider if You Can Live with Coal Tar Sealed Asphalt

Let me let you in on a secret. Frequently I am contacted by people shocked and saddened by the harsh reality that they and their loved ones are living in the midst of mobile, potent carcinogens; endocrine disruptors; and chemicals which cause birth defects.

None asked for this disruption.

Some are angry and are motivated to change their communities; others are bewildered that their government has let them down.

More wonder if they can afford a move or the expense of removing the material on their own property.

We humans often identify with the places we live and are vested in our communities and neighborhoods and we are reluctant to leave because of a pavement product. But some have.

What are the top 5 things to consider when deciding whether you stay or go?

Here are mine:

1. Be sure you know what you're dealing with. Is it really a coal tar-based sealcoat? Ask the building manager or the contractor what product they used. It is amazing how frequently they act ignorant like a child caught with their hand in a cookie jar. Ask them for an MSDS or an SDS sheet. Coal tar smells like mothballs and can be cheaply tested for under $20 as shown here. A more expensive lab test (EPA8270) costs about $250 but is more definitive.

2. Consult your body and your doctor. When you have difficulty breathing in your home, you know something has to be done. A more difficult call is when you have underlying health issues and are in a weakened state. Ask your doctor their opinion. Hopefully you don't have to cross a coal tar sealed parking lot to get their opinion like Dan Chiles of Springfield, MO!

3. Remember that we don't fully understand the risks. However, we do know a lot about coal tar pavement pollution and the effects of coal tar on the human body. Here is a recently compiled summary which should give anyone pause when thinking about living with coal tar sealer pollution.

4. Understand your finances. Can you afford to remove the coal tar if it is at your home? It is expensive. If you live in an apartment or condo can you afford to begin to mitigate the exposure to dust with deep, frequent floor cleaning and HEPA air filtration? Can you get out of your lease or afford to get out of it?

5. Know your heart and that of your family. Will staying create anxiety and uncertainty which can rob your home of joy? Is there an unborn child on the way which heightens this sense of anxiety? Do you want to maximize the opportunity that all is safe with your unborn baby or are you the kind of person that feels that things will work out ok?

These are my top 5 factors to consider. Do you have other suggestions?

Should you stay or should you go? I wish that was not a necessary decision, but it is. As the song says:
One day is fine, 
the next is black.

This decision is a difficult one for many in our country and I don't expect that to change in the near future. I included the link to the song belong, not to make light of a difficult time, but perhaps buoy the spirits of those who are facing this decision.

Post a Comment

Anonymous said... August 11, 2015 at 3:30 PM

One option that I have heard is to encapsulate (i.e. cover) a coal tar sealed area with the asphalt based alternative. This is far less expensive than a move or removal of a paved surface. Is it an effective way to immobilize PAHs in the coal tar sealcoat?

Coal Tar Free America said... August 11, 2015 at 3:46 PM

I wish that the technique you describe was effective. Unfortunately the top layer wears off and you're back with coal tar sealers exposed. USGS' early research comparing runoff from coal tar and asphalt sealed surfaces was confounded by coal tar underlying the asphalt based sealer on top. In other words the PAHs came through.

This type of encapsulation would only be recommended as an alternative of last resort when all other options are too expensive and only on well-monitored, unplowed, low-traffic residential driveways.

 
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