Coal Tar

What is Coal Tar?

Coal tar is a thick black liquid with an aromatic odour. Crude coal tar will partly dissolve in solutions of alcohol, ether, chloroform, methanol, acetone, petroleum ether, carbon disulphide and sodium hydroxide. It is a byproduct from the production of coke (a solid fuel) and coal gas from coal.

What is Coal Tar used for?

Coal tar is used across a variety of products and applications, from use in medicinal products to construction.

In construction applications, coal tar is applied to roads and asphalt as a coating to extend its life and reduce the cost of maintenance. It is also contained in coatings and paints for roofing.    

Medical products containing coal tar include shampoos to treat dandruff, psoriasis and lice, as well as lotions and cream to treat eczema and other skin conditions.

Coal tar was commonly used to form a waterproof membrane on the roofs of buildings, but has since been phased out due to the health hazards of the material.
Coal tar was commonly used to form a waterproof membrane on the roofs of buildings, but has since been phased out due to the health hazards of the material.

While coal tar has been found to be an effective medical treatment for several skin conditions, it is also known to be a human carcinogen and occupational exposure to coal tar is associated with the occurrence of skin cancers. 

Coal Tar Hazards

The routes of exposure for coal tar include inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of coal tar may cause irritation of the respiratory tract. Inhalation of coal tar can cause central nervous depression as well as acting as a general anaesthetic. Other symptoms include lightheadedness, nervousness, apprehension, confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, ringing in the ears, blurred/double vision, vomiting, sensations of heat/cold/numbness, twitching, tremors, unconsciousness, and depression of breathing. The heart may stop as a result of cardiovascular collapse. The hazard of inhalation increases when the chemical is being handled at higher temperatures. 

Symptoms of ingestion include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, salivation, dizziness, difficulty breathing, a weak pulse, convulsions, low blood pressure and central nervous stimulation. 

Skin contact with coal tar may cause skin redness, pimples, blisters, ulcers and contact dermatitis. Entry into the bloodstream through open cuts and wounds may lead to other harmful effects.

Eye exposure may produce eye irritation and damage in some individuals. Symptoms may present themselves as redness, conjunctivitis, pain, corneal injury, pain and possible permanent vision impairment.

Coal Tar Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Lay them down and keep them warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR (preferably with a bag-valve mask device). Seek urgent medical attention. 

If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. If vomiting occurs, lean the patient forward or place them on their left side to prevent aspiration. Observe the patient and give them water to rinse out their mouth. Seek medical attention.  

If skin exposure occurs, remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Seek medical attention in the event of irritation. Sunscreen should be applied to the affected skin afterwards as well as kept out of the sun. 

If the chemical is exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with fresh running water, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Seek medical attention if pain persists.

Coal Tar Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains and emergency showers should be accessible near the area of the potential exposure to the chemical. Local exhaust is required to remove or dilute air contaminants in the work environment. 

The PPE recommended when handling coal tar includes safety glasses with side shields, chemical goggles, half/full-face respirators, PVC protective gloves, PVC aprons, overalls and safety footwear/gumboots. Barrier and cleansing creams are also recommended in the event of skin exposure.

Users may be exposed to great hazard due to improper handling of coal tar, so it is essential to always refer to the SDS prior to handling. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at sa***@ch*******.net for more information about our chemicals management solutions.