Inside the Coal Tar Industry’s Propaganda to Stop the IL Ban

Last time I checked, the State of Illinois ended their session marking more than 700 days without a working budget. That may have contributed to the difficulty in getting a ban (HB 2958) passed, but the propaganda by the industry didn’t help.

We have obtained a copy of the what the industry was distributing to legislators and it isn’t pulling any punches. They continued to propagate fear and falsehood in trying to defeat this legislation. Here’s why. The images are clipped directly from the industry’s one pager to defeat this legislation.


Marketing experts, paving professionals and industry leaders agree that the use of coal tar sealers is unnecessary and that the industry is thriving and growing even as restrictions on the use of coal tar continues to expand.

A market research company recently confirmed what one CEO of a sealer company said a few years ago: bans really won’t hurt the sealcoat business.

In the projected period through 2024, the industry is expected to experience “moderate growth” but “rising bans on coal tar-based sealers, the improved performance of asphalt-based sealers, and competitive pricing are expected to result in the increased consumption of bitumen and asphalt sealers…”

This is a frequent argument made by the industry. It is a faulty assumption in their logic. They assume that if an agency hasn’t officially moved to ban coal tar, then somehow that translates into it being a safe product. You can see that the lack of a ban hardly is an endorsement of its safety. It ignores that the USEPA has done the following:
  • studied coal tar sealer runoff and found it toxic to aquatic life
  • recommend that local bans are an effective way to address this pollution source
  • sponsored a webinar on the science of coal tar sealer pollution
  • published their own fact sheet to discourage its use
  • rejected requests by the industry to discredit and retract support of the USGS research into coal tar sealer pollution

Funny that industry would cherry-pick an analysis from Environment Canada where the ultimate recommendation was to ban the product. More precisely they found after they reviewed the entirety of the literature that coal tar sealers meet the legal threshold to ban the product. 

Industry was caught citing this study by the Village President of Wilmette earlier this year. When asked why they didn’t quote the conclusion and only this analysis they said because they don’t agree with it. Here’s the statement they ignored:

“The MOE [risks] associated with ingestion of house dust by children is considered potentially inadequate to protect these susceptible subpopulations.”

Here is their concluding statement:

Overall the evidence appears to support your conclusions that coal tars and their distillates meet the criteria under paragraph 64c of CEPA and they are entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that may constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health.

This MOE value will take a little more analysis in the future but two facts remain:
  1. Canada found sufficient grounds to ban coal tar sealers
  2. Cancer is not the only problem caused by PAHs from sources like coal tar sealers. They cause birth defects, learning disorders, behavior problems and trigger asthma. Not exactly safe.

This is a pretty infamous list of opposing reasonable legislation. Some have attempted to thwart efforts to reduce useless and dangerous flame retardants as reported by the Chicago Tribune. Others, I guarantee would be kicking over a hornet’s nest if their constituency knew they were opposing this reasonable legislation that now just gives the right to ban coal tar sealers. 

Most importantly is the position of the School Association. If you don’t agree with their support, then give this person you thoughts:

Susan Hilton
Director/Governmental Relations

Illinois Association of School Boards
217/528-9688, ext. 1135