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Coal tar sealant is the black, viscous liquid applied to many asphalt parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds in North America to protect and enhance the appearance of the underlying asphalt. Coal tar sealant is a potent source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in urban and suburban areas and a potential concern for human health and aquatic life (USGS 2021).
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The City of Warrenville has passed ordinance O2022-05, Title 3, Chapter 28, which bans the use of coal-tar products. The ordinance takes effect starting January 1, 2023.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – or PAHs – are aromatic (airborne) toxic chemicals that are formed whenever anything with a carbon base (such as wood, gasoline, or meat) is burned. They are known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, and/or teratogenic (causing birth defects), and they are major contaminants of not only paved areas, but adjacent homes and local rivers.
The purpose of the ban is to protect the people and waterways of Warrenville. Coal tar is a known human carcinogen (USGS 2015) and very toxic to aquatic life. Coal tar is the single greatest source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in the West Branch of the DuPage, which runs through Warrenville.
Asphalt-based sealants are a readily available alternative to coal tar-based sealants, and numerous studies by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have shown that asphalt-based sealants have significantly lower concentrations of PAHs and therefore a lower risk for causing harm to humans and wildlife (USGS 2015).
The ban applies to all homeowners, business owners, property owners, HOAs, contractors, and anyone who might apply or sell coal tar pavement sealants within The City of Warrenville.
Coal tar is a known human carcinogen (USGS 2015). PAHs from coal-tar-based sealcoat can contaminate house dust, a particular risk for small children, who spend time on the floor and put their hands and objects into their mouths. Although unseen, releases of PAHs to the atmosphere (volatilization) from freshly coal-tar-sealed pavement are tens of thousands of times higher than from unsealed pavement. This is a potential human-health concern because inhalation is an important pathway for human exposure to PAHs. Runoff from coal-tar-sealcoated pavement is also acutely toxic to aquatic life. Dust on coal-tar-sealed parking lots contains bits of abraded sealcoat particles, and PAH-contaminated dust that is not trapped by stormwater management devices can be transported to streams and lakes, where it settles.
Yes. Pavement sealant professionals need to apply for a license through the City’s website. The cost of the license is $100 and must be renewed annually. Contractors will be required upon applying for a license to submit Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for the products they will be using. Additionally, while performing work, contractors will need to have on hand a current license, MSDSs, and invoices of products being applied.
In short, ask your pavement sealing contractor what type of sealant they use. Let them know that the City has banned the use of coal tar sealants. You can view a list of licensed sealant contractors on the City’s website. If your contractor is not listed, inform them of the City’s licensing requirements.
Homeowners will be allowed to seal their own driveways without a City license; however, the sealant they use must not contain coal tar. It is our understanding that most home improvement stores like Home Depot and Menard’s no longer sell coal tar sealants, but instead provide alternatives such as asphalt-based sealants. Businesses within the City limits will be required to not sell coal tar sealants.
Anyone found guilty of violating the ordinance is subject to fees as set forth in the City code 1-4-1.
Please contact the Community Development Department at 630-836-3050.
For more information, we recommend the following sources:
USGS (2021) https://www.usgs.gov/mission-areas/water-resources/science/coal-tar-based-pavement-sealcoat-pahs-and-environmental-health?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects
USGS (2015) https://www.usgs.gov/news/coal-tar-sealant-runoff-causes-toxicity-and-dna-damage
Long et al. (2016) at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4979669/
Mahler et al. (2015) at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25860716/
Williams et al. (2013) at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23181746/