On February 24th the Daily North Shore (Illinois) published an opinion piece by the coal tar industry trade group entitled, “Sealcoating Ban Lacks Research.” Too bad the paper doesn’t have a fiction section because that is where that opinion piece belongs.
The industry, namely the Pavement Coatings Technology Council, makes a slough of false statements in their letter (regarding health, business, testing) but let’s focus on their core claim:
“When RTS [“refined tar sealer” industry’s pet name for coal tar sealer] products are properly applied, they pose no health or environmental risk to the community”
What evidence does the industry have to make such a statement?
Well there is a 1991 magazine article, which used outdated methods, wasn’t peer reviewed, and is inconsistent with recent studies. It showed it safe for workers. But what does prove about “no health or environmental risk”? NOTHING.
They have sponsored a several studies that look at the percentage of pollution in a watershed which could be traced back to coal tar sealers. But what does prove about “no health or environmental risk”? NOTHING.
Have they published any data about the concentration of chemicals in their products? NO.
Have they tested the safety of letting kids play on playgrounds and driveways with coal tar sealers? NO.
The fact is that industry has NO supporting information or studies to support this claim. It is pure fiction and they hope that if they say it long enough and loud enough then people will believe them.
It reminds me of what the Winnetka Councilmember said during their ban discussion:
“What we’ve heard from the industry ….is the same thing that I heard as a lawyer from the tobacco industry & asbestos industries.
Instead of presenting us with studies showing this material is safe, they criticize studies that show it’s harmful.”
Here are the facts: the negative effects of coal tar sealers have been positively shown on fish, frogs, and salamanders in both the laboratory and in nature by multiple governmental and university researchers in the US, Canada and France. It has even been analyzed down to the DNA of aquatic organisms and shown that 100 to 1 dilutions damage DNA and the repair mechanisms to fix the damage.
We are talking about a substance in potent quantities on driveways that is a known human carcinogen, causes birth defects and triggers asthma. There is an abundance of risk with this product.
Links to all this research are on this website and you can start here in our Science section.
On Tuesday, February 28th Wilmette will vote on a ban of this substance. I suspect that the wise stewards of that community will see this opinion piece for what it is: a work of fiction not to be taken seriously.