Ending the Use of Coal Tar-based Sealants (PAHs)

Working with local governments to ban sealants containing PAHs.

Coal-tar based pavement sealants are the primary source of toxic PAH pollution in urban landscapes. PAHs increase cancer risk, hurt fish and other aquatic life in our waterways, and soils contaminated with PAHs are very expensive for municipalities to remove and dispose of properly.

Making A Difference At The Local Level

Clean Wisconsin has been working with Wisconsin municipalities to ban the use of these toxic sealants and switch to less harmful alternatives. We are also advocating for legislation to ban coal-tar based pavement sealants statewide.

At least 24 Wisconsin municipalities have banned the use of coal-tar based sealants
Ashland, Bayside, Brown Deer, Dane County, De Pere, Elm Grove, Franklin, Glendale, Green Bay, Greendale, Greenfield, Hales Corners, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Plymouth, Port Washington, Racine, Sheboygan, Shorewood, St. Francis, Sturgeon Bay, Wauwatosa, West Allis, and Whitefish Bay.

30% of Wisconsin residents are now protected by bans on coal tar-based sealants!

How Are People Exposed to PAHs From Sealants?

PAHs accumulate in soils, household dust, and carpets when particles of tar-based sealants are blown or tracked into homes, schools, and other buildings. The particles come from those sealants being worn down over time by weather, tire abrasion, and foot traffic. The toxic sealant particles are also washed off by rain and spring meltwater, ending up in our local water bodies.

Are There Alternatives?

Yes! Asphalt-based pavement sealants have up to 1,000 times lower PAH levels and are no more expensive than tar-based sealants. Alternatives such as acrylic sealants or gravel parking lots and driveways have minimal PAH levels. Studies of an early PAH ban in Austin, Texas, have shown significant PAH reductions in local waterbodies.

Roofer worker painting bitumen praimer at concrete surface by the roller brush Waterproofing 2018How to be PAH-Safe

Don’t use tar-based pavement sealants
If you feel you must seal your driveway or parking lot, then use asphalt-based sealants, which have 1,000-times lower PAH levels.

Remove your shoes
If you don’t have control over your parking lot or driveway, try to keep sealant dust and soil out of your house by taking off shoes before entering your home or apartment.

Look for hidden PAHs
Tar can have a lot of different names, and some other byproducts can have very high levels of PAHs. To be safe, check the “Material Safety Data Sheet” of the product (try searching online) and avoid anything including CAS #’s 64742-90-1, 65996-92-1, 65996-93-2, 65996-89-6, 69013-21-4, or 8007-45-2.