A recent social media video claiming asphalt sealant as harmful to the environment and human health is another example of sensationalized false information confronted by the industry.
The type of coal tar used in sealants is a by-product of the steel-making process. It has a long history of safe use. It is classified as “generally regarded as safe and effective” by the FDA for use as a skin medication. It is the active ingredient in many dandruff shampoos. Refined coal tar-derived sealcoat is formulated, distributed, and applied by thousands of local businesses across the United States. Virtually all of these businesses are small, family-owned enterprises.
Activists point to the US Geological Survey (USGS) research to support their claim that sealants are the main source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the environment. Indeed, PAHs are everywhere on Earth and, according to NASA, everywhere in the universe. The claim made in the video about children and cancer is lifted directly from claims made by activist USGS hydrologists with no expertise in medical or health science. These USGS hydrologists have been shown to have manipulated data and used circular reasoning in their sealant studies. Independent studies contradict the USGS conclusions. Because substances containing PAHs have been thoroughly tested, studied and analyzed, the risks thought to be associated with exposures to PAH-containing materials are well understood by the scientific community. Whether evaluated from the point of view of real world exposures (e.g. work place exposures) or from the perspective of studies of laboratory animals exposed to individual PAHs, the irrefutable conclusion reached by scientists is that these risks are low.