As seen in USA Today, MSNBC, Dr. Oz, and the Chicago Tribune.


Doctors, Lawyers & Coal Tar Relief: 2016 Year in Review

In the world of coal tar sealers, 2016 has been a fascinating year. New scientific research, sweeping federal legislation, bans, citize...

In the world of coal tar sealers, 2016 has been a fascinating year.

New scientific research, sweeping federal legislation, bans, citizen and legal actions,  and healthcare professional endorsements all moved coal tar pavement sealers further down the path of extinction. However, it wasn't all success as statewide efforts often lacked populous support.

If this site is any indication, web traffic doubled in 2016 over the year prior. Thanks to those who partnered with Coal Tar Free America in to help drive interest and traffic.

Here are our top 16 events of 2016:

1. In November the American Medical Association or AMA approved a policy lending their support to any federal state or local ban of coal tar pavement sealers. 

2. In June the City of San Antonio became the nation's largest city to ban coal tar sealers. Now about 20 million Americans are under a ban. The sponsor, Councilmember Ron Nirenberg garnered support from the health department and the VP of the local Associated General Contractors. Integral local support came from the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and the Texas Moms' Clean Air Force.

Here are the thumbnails of this year's posts; an interactive window with links is below
3. The federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed by Congress and signed by Pres. Obama in June. It had support from both parties and industry and many environmental groups. Essentially it creates a pathway for more materials to be regulated and greater certainty for industry with firm timetables on decision-making. Coal tar sealants are not on the horizon to be reviewed, but authors of the legislation recommend continued activity at the state and local level until the EPA takes action.

4. Canada just completed a review and public comment period regarding the regulation or banning completely of coal tar sealers. Their review was mixed with a lot of negative comments about impacts on the environment. It is uncertain whether this will pass or not at this time.

5. In 2016 several suburban Detroit communities passed bans including Ann Arbor. These all had limits on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), not just coal tar. Thanks to the Huron River Watershed Council for leading that.

6. Last year the sealer industry started selling new products in earnest that are asphalt-based, but high in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (the chemical family of concern and coal tar). Some communities in Illinois and Michigan have passed bans of coal tar and any material containing more than 0.1% PAH. Others have continued to just focus on coal tar alone. We published the first cut of asphalt-based products which shows the PAH concentration of these alternatives. Thanks to Sitelab who offered free product testing! You can read more about it here

7. EPA announced in August that coal tar sealers will be restricted at industrial sites in four states starting in 2020. This is the first action by the US EPA on this product and it is a model that other states may follow. This effort was spearheaded by the Waterkeeper Alliance.

8, In August a new research paper found increased genetic damage from coal tar sealers.

9. Oregon State researchers looked at a broader range of PAH materials and found that while it is consistent with the findings of the USGS, coal tar sealers are more toxic than previously known.

10. Earlier in the year the EPA wrote a letter of support of the research accomplished by the USGS. Industry had attempted to discredit the research and have EPA expunge it from their educational literature.

11. In May Dr. Oz in one of his syndicated columns recommended people cease from the use of coal tar sealers and that they should go to Coal Tar Free America for additional information.

12. The United States Geological Survey or USGS printed a new educational flyer summarizing the research about the hazards of coal tar sealants. It is technical enough for the public and decision-makers to understand the issue and to take action.

13. In December the Region One of the EPA wrote a cease-and-desist letter to a coal tar contractor for making false statements about their product.

14. The public outcry and citizens' actions in Pomfret, Connecticut. They are a model of public reaction to a government decision to use coal tar on their local roads. They are organized and motivated. Expect to hear more about them in 2017. 

15. Last year the sealer industry started selling a new product that is asphalt-based, but high in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (the chemical family of concern and coal tar). Some communities in Illinois and Michigan have passed bans of coal tar and any material containing more than 0.1% PAH. Others have continued to just focus on coal tar alone. You can read more about it here.

16. Late in the year, the USGS jointly-published a comprehensive field study of PAH concentrations and sources in Milwaukee-area streams. The lead researcher said, "This (USGS) study shows that PAHs (from coal tar sealers) pose a very real threat to aquatic organisms…. In terms of toxicity to these organisms, PAHs are probably the most important contaminants in Milwaukee-area streams.”

In concert with this release, 19 area communities in the Milwaukee-area pledged to do what they can to eliminate this product from their area.

While not garnishing any headlines, one of the most important events of the year is the struggle that many mothers and fathers go through after they find out that they have a freshly sealed, toxic coal tar driveway in front of their home. I count it an honor to assist these people with various means to address the problem. I hope that this becomes less frequent as more restrictions on and less demand for these products continues.


Obviously with the change in the White House administrations, predictions on the future of environmental regulations at a federal level are uncertain. However the bipartisan TSCA re-write of 2016 swings open wide the continued local, regional and state restrictions of products like this. So let's keep moving this forward together!


video playlist


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Coal Tar Free America: Doctors, Lawyers & Coal Tar Relief: 2016 Year in Review
Doctors, Lawyers & Coal Tar Relief: 2016 Year in Review
Coal Tar Free America
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