Children in Illinois who live close to parking lots or playgrounds may be at significant risk for exposure to toxic substances if those surfaces are covered with a coal-tar sealant. A new study has raised concerns over the dangers of this common sealant, outlining the risk it may pose to children. With enough evidence, the sealant could be the source of product liability claims.
The study, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and scientists from Baylor University, tracked the impact that living near pavement sealed with coal tar has on children. It found that proximity directly related to the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, that could be ingested. Breathing in these chemicals can lead to cancer. The dangerous substances are breathed in twice as much by children who live or play near coal tar.
The link between coal tar and cancer has raised alarms sufficiently for a number of cities, and many have discussed banning the sale of coal-tar sealant products for use in driveways, parking lots or playgrounds. The products are still widely used despite the possible dangers. However, a few retailers have pulled them from the shelves, not wishing to risk contributing to the spread of childhood cancer.
There currently are approximately 85 million gallons of coal-tar sealants used in the U.S. annually. Proponents of the use of these specific sealants assert that they can extend the lifetime of an asphalt surface as well as place a new bright black shine on it. These arguments ignore the health risks. Alternative products made with asphalt rather than coal tar contain substantially fewer cancer causing PAHs.
While research continues on the dangers of PAH emissions, parents who believe their children has developed an illness due to an exposure to toxic substances may want to seek medical and legal assistance to determine if the sealant could be the culprit.
Source: Boston Herald, "Study finds risk to children from coal-tar sealants," Michael Hawthorne, Feb. 14, 2012