Environmental Impact of Coal Tar Pitch

United States Geological Survey: “Coal-Tar-Based Pavement Sealcoat, PAHs, and Environmental Health”
April 1, 2021
The Benefits of Pavement Maintenance and Management
June 1, 2021


Coal Tar Pitch, also known as Coal Tar or Pitch, is a hazardous chemical called a volatile. It is listed on the Right to Know Hazardous Substance List with many organizations including OSHA, DOT, NFPA, NTP, IARC and more. Coal Tar is a flammable liquid used as a base for coatings or paint, in paving and as a binder for asphalt. This chemical is a dangerous fire hazard as a fire from this product produces poisonous gases. Coal Tar is also a known human carcinogen or cancer-causing substance.

Coal Tar and the Environment

Coal Tar is so detrimental to the environment that the EPA requires any spills or leaks of this chemical to be handled as hazardous waste. Also, companies that use this chemical must also follow hazardous substance regulations in the containment and disposal of this chemical. Run-off from Coal Tar seal coated pavement contains high concentrations of a toxic substance called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons or PAHs. PAHs are harmful to human life and toxic to aquatic life when it makes its way into our rivers, lakes, streams and ponds. Even more concerning is that Coal Tar-based sealants abrade over time and become part of the dust on the road where it is dispersed by wind, rain, car tires and even your feet into surrounding areas. This disbursement is how PAHs end up in soil and the surrounding environment–even as part of the dust inside your home.

Run-off into lakes, streams, ponds, rivers and other waterways have a disastrous effect, killing fish and causing fish embryos in the water to mutate. It also ends up in our storm systems through run-off into sewers and drains. Even worse, the toxicity of PAHs can be intensified by sunlight, making this component of Coal Tar even more deadly to aquatic, animal and human life. PAHs not only impact water quality but also air quality. Testing has shown that Coal Tar seal-coated pavement continues to release PAHs into the air for at least eight years after application. Experts agree that new applications of Coal Tar-based sealcoating release more PAHs in a year than the total annual vehicle emissions of PAHs.

Pitch Black vs Coal Tar

Coal Tar Pitch is a hazardous, cancer-causing, environmentally devastating product. That’s why EcoShield manufactures Pitch Black, a non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, eco-friendly alternative to Coal Tar Pitch that not only eliminates the environmental impacts but is safe and holds up better and longer. When you know better, you can choose better and demand better for your community and your neighborhood. To learn more about Pitch Black, check out our product information page here: https://www.ecoshieldasphalt.com/#ecofriendly. And if you have questions, we’d love to answer them so give us a call!

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