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Coal Tar Pitch

Can Cause Serious Health Problems

“Coal tar” or “coal tar pitch” is a substance commonly found in many industries that can cause serious health problems.  Wallace & Graham has experience in handling coal tar pitch claims.

Coal tar “is a thick, black or brown liquid that is a byproduct of the carbonization of coal for the steel industry or the gasification of coal to make coal gas. Coal tar is a byproduct of the coking of coal for the steel industry and coal-tar pitch is the residue remaining after the distillation of coal tar.” 

Coal-tar pitch contains “50 percent or more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) by weight and is known to cause cancer in humans (International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1980)."

The types of cancer include:  lung cancer, bladder cancer, skin cancer (non-melanoma), laryngeal cancer, and kidney cancer.

Coal tar is often used in roofing and paving.  “The exposures associated with roofing are the result of two operations. First, the old roof is removed by cutting, prying and scraping the existing material from the roof, and discarding it. A new roof is then installed by melting solid blocks of coal-tar pitch, pumping or carrying buckets of the molten material to the roof, where layers of roofing felt and liquid coal-tar pitch are spread upon the surface to produce a cover (NIOSH, 2000; IPCS, 2004). Roofers are primarily exposed to PAHs. Other exposures include diesel exhaust, asbestos and organic solvents.”  

With regard to paving operations, “[c]oal-tar-based sealcoat products typically are 20 to 35 percent coal-tar pitch. Product analyses indicate that coal-tar-based sealcoat products contain about 1,000 times more PAHs than sealcoat products with an asphalt base (City of Austin, 2005).”  

Coal tar pitch also plays a prominent role in the aluminum manufacturing process.  Aluminum is produced by reducing alumina into molten aluminum through electrolysis.  This electrolysis process occurs in reduction cells, called pots, where alumina reacts with carbon anodes producing carbon dioxide and aluminum. 

The anode (or positive electrode) is a large block of carbon made from coke and coal tar pitch.  It is inserted in a steel box lined with carbon blocks made from metallurgical coke and coal tar pitch.  The lining of the pot is called the cathode (or negative electrode).  The pots use multiple anodes during electrolysis because the anodes are consumed and must be continuously replaced.  During electrolysis, the high temperatures applied to the anodes and cathodes result in the emission of coal tar pitch volatiles in the form of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). 

Thus workers in steel manufacturing, aluminum manufacturing, roofing, and paving industries are some of those most at risk of being exposed to coal tar pitchFor free consultation call 800.849.5291 or email us, today! 


We Represent Working People

Wallace & Graham has represented many working people who were exposed to coal tar pitch.  Recently Wallace & Graham has helped with lawsuits pending in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania state court.  These cases involve workers exposed to coal tar pitch in aluminum smelters located in several states, including North Carolina, Texas, Indiana, Washington, Tennessee, Maryland, and New York.  The lawsuits were filed against various manufacturers of coal tar pitch and coal tar pitch-containing products.