September 20, 2013
Coal Tar Sealant Risks

You might want to think twice before you let your kids play basketball or hopscotch in your driveway or the neighborhood park.

A Baylor University study has found that people who live near pavement sealed with coal tar, often used on parking lots and driveways, might have as much as a 38 percent increased chance of developing cancer during their lifetimes.

You can be exposed to the potential toxins when vehicle and foot traffic breaks down the sealant into dust particles, which are released into the air and tracked into the house.

Children younger than 6 are particularly vulnerable because they ingest the toxins at a higher rate than adults.

The research has led some cities and states across the country to ban the use of coal tar sealant.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between coal tar and asphalt, which is safe. ER physician Dr. Travis Stork demonstrates a test you can do at home to determine if your driveway is sealed with coal tar.

Coal Tar Sealant Test

1. Wear protective goggles and gloves.
2. Scrape off a small amount of sealant and place in glass filled with mineral spirits, which is paint thinner. Seal and shake.
3. Let it sit for 30 minutes. If the liquid is dark or coffee-colored, it is most likely safe asphalt-based pavement. If the liquid is amber colored, it is mostly likely coal tar sealant.
4. The test will give you a good indication of what type of sealant has been used. To get a definitive answer, have a sample professionally tested at a lab.

How to Protect Your Family
• If your driveway has been sealed with coal tar, you can seal over it with asphalt to diminish your exposure, or have contractors safely blast the sealant off the pavement.
• If you find that your neighborhood basketball court or parking lot is sealed with coal tar sealant, make sure your children take off their shoes when they get home and wash their hands after playing outside. Also, avoid letting your child play in the dirt near suspected coal-tar sealant.

Related:

Home safety tips

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