California on the Road to Being Coal Tar Free

The transportation agency for the State of California, CalTrans, has committed to be coal tar free!  Some have said that coal tar sealants aren’t really used on the West Coast, but there is a fair bit of evidence to the contrary.  Several months ago I wrote a piece about a poll of 1000 sealant applicators across the country that asked their sealant preference. While non-scientific, in California, 23% prefer to use coal tar sealant. This is higher than the 14% in the State of Washington that, as you may know, was the first to ban in May of 2011.

Finding out how much is actually being used in California is difficult to say and finding what contractors are selling it is a bit murky. Because of negative publicity about coal tar sealants, contractors are now scrubbing their websites and advertising of the words “coal tar.” In spite of this one California contractor continues to make this incredible claim:

“Seal Coating is a complex mixture of chemicals specifically designed to protect asphalt pavements. It is a refined coal tar emulsion that is environmentally safe and practically odorless and is harmless to people.”

Wow, how is that legal to make such claims?!  It illustrates the problem we have with such a poorly regulated industry.  The unscrupulous applicator says whatever it takes to apply their products.

Recently CalTrans re-affirmed their commitment to be coal tar sealant free after some old coal tar sealant specifications got into a bid packet.  This error was reversed prior to more toxic sealant being applied, but it demonstrates the challenge of institutions translating “board room” talk to the “factory floor.”  Thank you CalTrans for eliminating the use of this product!  A copy of the letter can be found  here.

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