ALBANY (TNS) — Homeowners in a few years could be seeking alternatives when they want to patch or seal their driveways.
Lawmakers this week passed a bill that, if signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would ban the use of coal tar, the dense, acrid-smelling goo that is used in domestic and commercial pavement sealing.
A ban has been discussed for a decade and some municipalities already prohibit its use. Additionally, most highway or road builders have switched to other petroleum-derived products to put down pavement.
But coal tar is still used in driveways and parking lots. Environmentalists say the suspected carcinogen can easily wash off into watersheds, harming aquatic life. It is also harmful to humans who have long-term exposure.
Coal tar is a byproduct in the making of coking coal for steelmaking and other industrial uses. It’s been around for centuries and is also known to have medicinal uses because of its anti-fungal and anti-itching properties.
But the coal tar used as a sealant contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons — molecular structures of carbon and hydrogen — which are believed to bind to DNA.
It has long been worrisome from a health standpoint, with links to cancer among chimney sweeps in past centuries and in more recent times among those who work on pavement sealing crews.
”We know that coal tar is bad for our health and our environment, and it’s high time that we follow the lead of other cities and states that have already taken action to limit its use,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a New York City Democrat who sponsored the ban along with Sen. James Sanders, a fellow city Democrat.
Bans on coal tar are already in place in Minnesota, Washington state and the District of Columbia.
The measure was backed by a wide range of environmental organizations, including Riverkeeper, Coal Tar Free America, Clean and Healthy NY, NYPIRG, Environmental Advocates NY, Sierra Club, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the NRDC and others.
The ban won’t apply to railroad ties, which are made with creosote, also derived from coal tar.
That’s because the bill covers uses regulated by the state. Rail lines, like interstate highways, largely fall under federal regulations. New York state has banned the use of creosote-treated wood in bridges.
If signed into law, the ban would take effect in two years.
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