First they dropped "'coal" out of their name and added "refined" to give it the perception that all of the impurities are taken out. This is not even close to the truth.
Today I learned a new one: just hide behind the specification number and don't describe the product. For instance, one might say "We only sell sealcoat that meets Federal Specification RP 355e" and there is no further description of any of the ingredients. The reader would have to know the specification to know whether it contains asphalt or coal tar or both. That federal specification is just for coal tar sealers.
I was surprised even to see it in a government bid in South Haven, Michigan. No where in the bid documents does it say what the main ingredients are.
Now add to this even more dizzying alphabet soup of standards like ASTM D 5727, ASTM D 3320-74T, FAA P-625, FAA P-627, FAA P-628, FAA P-630 and FAA P-631 and you have a lot of standards to hide behind.
Consumers should ask for a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the product they are interested in buying. These were formally known as "Material Safety Data Sheets," but this was changed a few years ago. If a contractor or supplier can't provide this, then I would move on to someone who can.
"Environmental Friendly" Coal Tar Sealers
If you've read much about this topic, then you'll wonder how someone could make this claim. Amazingly it still happens. The Federal Trade Commission, if they were paying attention, would stop this in a heart beat. Here's some of their recommendations:
Marketers should not make broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims like ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly.’ Broad claims are difficult to substantiate, if not impossible.
When a marketer qualifies a general claim with a specific benefit, consumers understand the benefit to be significant. As a result, marketers shouldn’t highlight small or unimportant benefits.
All this is a reminder to decision makers, regulators and consumers: the current lack of oversight of this industry leaves consumers vulnerable to not just deception, but also to the economic and health risks of using coal tar sealers.