Have you ever taken a whiff of an odor so strong that you cannot associate it with anything else but something poisonous? Well, that would be the case if you live close to driveways, parking lots, or children’s playgrounds that have been sealed with coal-tar sealant.
Coal-tar pavement sealant is a liquid substance that is sprayed or painted on some asphalt pavement. It has been linked to public health threats and contamination in our lakes and waterways.
Runoff from surfaces containing coal-tar sealant, and windblown particles from the sealant, can have harmful effects on aquatic life, causing difficulty swimming, liver problems, impairments to immune systems and even death. Humans can also be exposed to this toxin by inhaling dust generated by foot and auto traffic. The chemicals in coal-tar sealant can pose cancer risks, and have been linked to attention deficit disorder and asthma in children. It is so toxic that some states and communities have taken either statewide or local action to ban its use.
This year Assembly Bill 1704, introduced by Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), can help California outlaw the use and sale of coal-tar sealant if passed. Sierra Club California worked closely with our allies and the author’s office and managed to get this bill out of its first committee recently. It is now heading to an appropriations committee that will assess if this proposed law’s costs to the state, if any, can be absorbed.
There is much work that still needs to be done, but we are excited with the progress of the effort to ban the use of this toxic substance. There are less toxic alternatives available and in broad use.
If you would like to help us on this issue, please call your state Assemblymember today and urge him or her to support this bill once it gets to the floor for votes. You can find your legislator’s name and contact information by clicking here.