On Nov. 12, Anne Arundel’s County Executive Steve Schuh signed legislation banning the use and sale of coal tar pavement products. Coal tar sealcoats are applied to maintain and protect paved surfaces, such as residential driveways and parking lots. They generally are sprayed on the pavement as a thick black or brown liquid. Coal tar sealcoats usually are comprised of 20% to 35% coal-tar pitch. Coal tar is a byproduct of coking coal and the pitch is the residue remaining after distillation of coal tar. Coal-tar pitch is a known human carcinogen that is 50% or more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by weight.

“After a thorough review by the Health Department, I believe this substance represents a significant risk to the environment and to public health, particularly the health of children,” said County Executive Steve Schuh.

Over time, car tires grind coal tar sealcoats into fine particles that can find their way into soil, stormwater, and house dust.

“The science clearly shows that coal tar is harmful to our streams, waterways, and citizens,” Schuh said. “Given the availability of acceptable industry alternatives, this legislation is the right thing to do for Anne Arundel County.”

Studies show that runoff from parking lots with coal-tar sealcoats have significantly elevated levels of PAHs compared to runoff from parking lots not treated with the sealant.

“Everything we do on the land affects the health of Anne Arundel’s rivers,” said Councilman Chris Trumbauer, lead sponsor of the legislation. “Prohibiting the use of this known carcinogen is one more step forward in our county’s effort to make our waterways safe and healthy for our residents.”

With this legislation, three of Maryland’s largest counties, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, have passed bans on coal tar products. The number of Maryland citizens under a ban is now more than 40% of the state’s population. Washington D.C. also passed a ban on coal-tar sealcoats in 2009.