Coal Tar Sealant

Coal tar is a byproduct of processing coal to make coke (a fuel with few impurities and a high carbon content) and contains cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Pavement sealants made from coal tar are much more toxic than asphalt, putting families at higher risk of cancers including lung cancer.

PAHs in coal tar sealant attach to dust created by tire friction and are tracked into homes on shoes, carried on clothing and drift in through open windows. Because of the PAHs’ proximity to floors and carpet, babies and young children are at particular risk of exposure of these lung-cancer causing carcinogens.

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HB2958 – Illinois Coal Tar Sealant Ban

Orignial sponsors: Representatives Laura Fine, Robyn Gabel, Ann Williams

House Bill 2958 bans the sale and use of coal tar-based sealants in Illinois and would allow municipalities and counties to adopt ordinances to enforce the ban. Get the bill’s current status.

It also allows for administrative citations:

  • <$1,000 for the first offense
  • <$5,000 for the second offense

Sign up to receive action alerts and we’ll notify you when legislators are working on the coal tar sealant ban. We’ll provide talking points; you can send an email or call your legislator’s office to share your support. Attend RHA’s State Lung Health Education Day in the spring.


Some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are human carcinogens that cause lung cancer.

Coal tar-based sealant can contain thousands of times as many PHAs as asphalt-based sealants.

Dust collected from coal tar-sealed pavement had PAHs concentrations hundreds to thousands of time greater than dust collected from unsealed or asphalt-sealed pavement.

Dust with 25 times higher PAHs concentrations was collected from residences next to parking lots with coal tar-sealed parking lots compared to dust in residences next to parking lots not sealed with coal tar-based sealant.

Children are especially vulnerable as they are expected to ingest or inhale more dust than adults.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, living next to a coal tar-sealed pavement presents a cancer risk 38 times higher than urban background exposure.

In 2016, the American Medical Association called for legislation to ban the use of sealcoats that contain PAHs or to limit use of sealcoat products to those that contain low or no PAHs.

Download RHA’s Coal Tar Sealant Fact Sheet.


Learn about other policy initiatives that RHA is pursuing to address toxic air pollution.


For more information, contact Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Policy, via email at or by phone at (312) 628-0245.