Coal Tar or Safe Seal Asphalt Emulsion? Which to Choose.

In any asphalt sealcoating operation there are two choices for asphalt sealer. The look and finished product appear the same, but are they? There are some major differences between Coal Tar and Asphalt Emulsion sealers and you will want to know what they are before your next asphalt sealing project. Coal Tar has been the industry standard for decades but how much do you know about it? Did you know that it can cause several health conditions? Some of which are very serious. Did you know there is a safer alternative, pet friendly, and more eco friendly? Because there is.

Coal Tar is a syrupy, black liquid that is derived from coal and the by-product steel making process it is the most commonly used sealer in the industry. It is widely available and is an economical choice as it can be diluted with water and then mixed with other mineral ingredients. Asphalt Emulsion on the other hand, uses asphalt cement along with minerals, polymers, and other ingredients that increase its durability. It cannot be watered down like Coal Tar can.

Though they are comprised of different ingredients Coal Tar and Asphalt Emulsion perform quite differently. The application of Coal Tar adheres to the top of the asphalt and forms an extremely hard layer on top of your existing asphalt. This layer helps to protect the asphalt from oil and gasoline that can damage the asphalt underneath. This is one of the reasons that Coal Tar has been so historically used as the “go-to” sealing product. However, recent advances in Asphalt Emulsion have not only helped it to catch up to Coal tar but surpass it in terms of quality.

Safe Seal Asphalt Emulsion has a significantly higher solid content than Coal Tar. This gives Asphalt Emulsion an advantage because it has a longer life than Coal Tar. Another reason that Asphalt Emulsion has a better durability is simply because it is made from the same asphalt base material. Asphalt has the tendency to expand and contract based on weather and temperature. The Coal Tar, while hard, does not expand or contract. This causes it to crack easily when conditions are not ideal, like where B&E Coating Services, LLC operates in Michigan. Asphalt Emulsion contracts and expands with the asphalt because it is derived from the same materials. This allows it to last longer and protect your investment better.

Once applied both materials will create a protective coating called a sealcoat to you asphalt driveway or parking lot. They are designed to give you a textured, black surface that looks fresh and gives your asphalt a more attractive look along with protecting it, with coal tar being more slippery by nature. Safe Seal AE will have a deeper true pitch black finish compared to coal tar leaving more of a blue hue. Odor is another distinct difference AE will have little or no odor compared to the nearly unbearable smell of the high PAH fumes from coal tar.  There are some pretty major differences starting right at the application point though. Crews that apply coal tar need to wear full body clothing and wear masks because of the irritation it causes to skin. It causes a rash-like condition on exposed skin called “sealer burn”. Coal Tar also has a strong smell that permeates from the surface for months and sometimes even a year or more after its application.

Asphalt emulsion doesn’t have these same risks involved with the application process contain almost undetectable PAH’s (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of more than 100 chemicals that are also called polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. PAHs are released from burning coal, oil, gasoline, trash, tobacco, coal tar sealers and wood.) Safe Seal is an Asphalt Emulsion sealer that is odorless and non-irritating to the skin. Safe Seal is just as easy to use as Coal Tar, but does not come with the same risks. It may not seem like a huge difference but applying Safe Seal to Schools, Hospitals, and Residential asphalt will make a huge difference in the comfort of the men, women, and children who would be affected by the odor that Coal Tar produces.

Unfortunately, we are not finished with the harmful side of Coal Tar yet. Safe Seal and Asphalt Emulsion in general has been approved as a safe alternative. Coal Tar has been proven to increase the risk factor of various types of cancer. Here is an excerpt from to give you an idea of the severity, “Occupational exposure to coal tar or coal-tar pitch increases the risk of skin cancer. Other types of cancer, including lung, bladder, kidney, and digestive tract cancer, have also been linked to occupational exposure to coal tar and coal-tar pitch.” It isn’t just the people who apply this that can be exposed either. As we’ve previously gone over, the Coal Tar layer can break apart and crack due to expansion and retraction. This can cause it to break apart leaving small chunks, debris, and dust that can find its way into water streams, lakes, surrounding soil, and even your air ducts.

Safe Seal Asphalt Emulsion has none of the risk factors that are associated with Coal Tar products. Safe Seal is made with Recycled Asphalt fillers and provides all weather protection while giving you the satisfying and attractive flat black almost pitch black look. It has superior durability giving a master seal and is non-burning, odorless, fast drying, and most importantly safe for you, your pets and the environment. There really is no comparison. To put it plainly, do you want a product that smells, doesn’t last as long, harmful to the environment, and has been proven to increase risk factor for cancer? Or would you rather go with a high quality, safer, odorless option that is very durable and doesn’t cause cancer. I think the answer is clear. Safe Seal Asphalt Emulsion is what you want on your next asphalt parking lot, private road, and driveway sealcoat project.

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