Bill Memo: Ban on Toxic Coal Tar

2 Tree: Substantial benefit rating


This bill amends Article 37 of the Environmental Conservation Law to prohibit the sale and use of coal tar pavement products containing high levels of PAHs in New York State.


Emerging contaminants like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a threat to public health and the environment. This legislation bans coal tar pavement sealants containing levels of PAHs in excess of ten thousand milligrams per kilogram.

Pavement sealants or sealcoats are the jet-black coatings that property owners apply to driveways and parking lots for businesses, apartment buildings, churches, schools, residential driveways, and playgrounds. There are two main types of sealants: coal tar-based and asphalt-based sealants. Coal tar sealants have extremely high concentrations of PAHs, while asphalt sealants generally have lower concentrations. Particles and dust from sealants containing PAH wear off due to weather, tire abrasion, and foot traffic, and can be blown or tracked into the air and soil as well as into homes and schools. The toxic particles can also be washed away by precipitation, ending up in nearby waterbodies in high concentrations.

PAHs are carcinogenic to humans and highly toxic to aquatic life. Children living in homes near parking lots that are coated with tar-based pavement sealants face a substantial increase in cancer risk compared to those living next to unsealed lots. People with a lifelong exposure to coal-tar sealant pavements and playgrounds have a 38-times higher risk of cancer. PAHs also kill small organisms living on the bottoms of rivers and streams and can cause tumors in fish and other large aquatic animals.

The American Medical Association has urged local and state governments to ban tar-based sealants due to their harmful health effects. PAH-containing coal tar sealants have been banned in many cities from Austin, Texas to Washington, DC and in Washington State and Minnesota. Alternatives are widely available, including pervious surfaces that do not require sealants. Asphalt sealants have much lower levels of PAHs than coal tar, and acrylic sealants also have lower PAH levels.

New York State needs to protect our children, our aquatic species, and our waterways from toxic PAH-containing coal tar sealants, a controllable source of pollution with reasonable alternatives.

Environmental Advocates NY Bill Rating: Substantial Benefit

Memo #: 2