Using Refined Coal Tar Emulsions Safely

Koppers Inc., a distiller of crude metallurgical coal tar and supplier of the RT12 base used in RTS manufacturing, conducted field and laboratory studies of airborne emissions that might result from manufacture, application and curing of refined coal tar-based sealant (RTS). Under the direction of Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) Mike Juba, air samples were collected under representative operating and environmental conditions typical of hand spray, squeegee machine, and drag box sealer applications as well as batch milling (using a high speed shear mill), retail pail filling, and bulk loading. Air samples were also collected from freshly applied sealcoat. Results of the study led to the conclusion:

All data confirm that refined coal tar usage complies with health and safety regulations.

This conclusion remains valid today. The study is posted here.

The paper describing the study also contains recommendations for using RTS safely, as follows:

Like most industrial chemicals, coal tar has potentially hazardous properties. These potential hazards are well known and can be controlled by following some simple work practices and using good personal hygiene. Refined coal tar sealer can be used safely by following these simple rules:

  • Read the manufacturer’s Material Safety Data Sheet and follow the recommendations.
  • Avoid prolonged direct contact with skin and eyes. If refined tar or sealer does get on your skin or saturates work clothing, the affected garments should be removed and involved skin areas washed with soap or waterless cleaners.
  • Full-length clothing should be worn at all times (i.e., long-sleeved shirts buttoned over the glove cuff, long pants with close fitting cuffs extending over the top of work boots).
  • Chemical resistant or liquid repellent gloves should be worn. Cloth gloves will absorb sealer.
  • For highly sensitive individuals or where there is the possibility of skin contact and exposure to sunlight, a protective cream formulated for coal tar products or a general purpose protective cream applied in conjunction with a No. 15 sun lotion should be used.