LETTER: Pay attention to this health hazard

Oct. 04, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

To the Editor:

Coal tar sealants make our driveways and parking lots really black and pretty. I have a coal tar sealant on my driveway. So does my church and Deep River School, where I have been walking for exercise for decades.

Coal tar is a human carcinogen that emits PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) into the atmosphere, which are hazardous chemicals causing lung, bladder and many other cancers. Not only are we breathing in these chemicals, the coal tar breaks down into particles that stick to our feet as we come in the house, and the particles attach themselves to the house dust. So the exposure to carcinogens continues even after we get off the pavement and come into our houses! ...

I became aware of my toxic driveway when viewing the Sept. 20 episode of “The Doctors” TV show. So I conducted my own research and found many articles regarding the ban of and carcinogenic effects of coal tar sealants. According to the June 20, 2013, edition of USA Today, children are most at risk:

“The lifetime exposure to PAHs, via house dust, was 38 times higher for people living near coal tar-sealed pavement than those who weren’t. About half of this dose occurs by age 6, and 80 percent by age 18.”

... As far back as 2009, the EPA reported that coal tar was a known human carcinogen. ...

What can you do about it if you have a coal tar sealant on your driveway? According to the USA Today article, you can shot blast it off (it will go somewhere else), or cover it with asphalt based sealant, which is what I am doing, to prevent the coal tar from leaching out.

According to an industrial hygienist I spoke to from the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Health, you can reduce the PAH levels in your home by cleaning carpets with a dry steam method ... . Using a heavy-duty air filter in the air-return vent and taking shoes off at the door, so the contaminated particles don’t stick to the house dust, also will help to reduce your risk.

Please help me to educate people about this little-known hazard to children and health by writing, calling or emailing your legislators and asking them to pass a ban on coal tar seal coating in N.C. Our lives and posterity literally may depend on it!

Carol Culberson Smith

Sanford