Fox Chapel is the first municipality in PA to ban the use of coal tar

Monday, May 11, 2020 | 11:34 AM

Fox Chapel has become the first municipality in the state to ban coal tar, commonly used to seal asphalt driveways, along with other chemicals that are similarly toxic.

“This is nasty stuff,” councilwoman Mandy Steele said. “I’m committed to exposing the worst chemical offenders and getting them out of our neighborhoods.”

In a big environmental win, council voted unanimously during its April meeting to ban coal tar, the black liquid frequently used on parking lots and playgrounds.

It is a potent source of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in the environment, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The Environmental Protection Agency classifies PAH and similar chemicals to be cancer-causing. Other side effects include irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.

“Over time, coal tar releases PAHs into the air and is inhaled,” Steele said. “It flakes off into tiny particles that are tracked into our homes where they are ingested.”

Other impacts of PAH can reach aquatic life, Steele said, after stormwater washes microscopic flakes into streams and creeks and lodges in the sediment.

Steele said she undertook the mission to rid coal tar from Fox Chapel after learning its hazards. She plans to lobby neighboring communities to ban the chemical as well.

Municipalities instead can use asphalt-based sealers which are similarly priced and a safer option, she said.

Across the country, several cities have instituted bans of coal tar, following an initial suit by Austin, Texas.

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