Coal tar is a thick dark liquid which is a by-product of the production of coke and coal gas from coal. It has both medical and industrial uses. It may be applied to the affected area to treat psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff). It may be used in combination with ultraviolet light therapy. Industrially it is a railway tie preservative and used in the surfacing of roads.
Side effects include skin irritation, sun sensitivity, allergic reactions, and skin discoloration. It is unclear if use during pregnancy is safe for the baby and use during breastfeeding is not typically recommended. The exact mechanism of action is unknown. It is a complex mixture of phenols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and heterocyclic compounds. It demonstrates antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, and antiparasitic properties.
Coal tar was discovered around 1665 and used for medical purposes as early as the 1800s. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. Coal tar is available as a generic medication and over the counter. In the United Kingdom 125 ml of 5% shampoo costs the NHS about £1.89. In the United States a month of treatment costs less than $25 USD. Coal-tar was one of the key starting materials for the early pharmaceutical industry.
|Trade names||Balnetar, Cutar, others|
|Synonyms||liquor carbonis detergens (LCD)|
liquor picis carbonis (LPC)
|AHFS/Drugs.com||Multum Consumer Information|
Coal tar is used in medicated shampoo, soap and ointment. It demonstrates antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, and antiparasitic properties. It may be applied topically as a treatment for dandruff and psoriasis, and to kill and repel head lice. It may be used in combination with ultraviolet light therapy.
Coal tar is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. Coal tar is generally available as a generic medication and over the counter. In the United Kingdom 125 ml of 5% shampoo costs the NHS about £1.89. In the United States a month of treatment costs less than $25 USD.
Pine tar has historically also been used for this purpose. Though it is frequently cited online as having been banned as a medical product by the FDA due to a "lack of evidence having been submitted for proof of effectiveness", pine tar is included in the Code of Federal Regulations, subchapter D: Drugs for Human Use, as an OTC treatment for "Dandruff/seborrheic dermatitis/psoriasis".
Coal tar may be used in two forms: crude coal tar (Latin: pix carbonis) or a coal tar solution (Latin: liquor picis carbonis, LPC) also known as liquor carbonis detergens (LCD). Named brands include Denorex, Balnetar, Psoriasin, Tegrin, T/Gel, and Neutar. When used in the extemporaneous preparation of topical medications, it is supplied in the form of coal tar topical solution USP, which consists of a 20% w/v solution of coal tar in alcohol, with an additional 5% w/v of polysorbate 80 USP; this must then be diluted in an ointment base such as petrolatum.
Coal tar was a component of the first sealed roads. In its original development by Edgar Purnell Hooley, tarmac was tar covered with granite chips. Later the filler used was industrial slag. Today, petroleum derived binders and sealers are more commonly used. These sealers are used to extend the life and reduce maintenance cost associated with asphalt pavements, primarily in asphalt road paving, car parks and walkways.
Coal tar is incorporated into some parking-lot sealcoat products used to protect the structural integrity of the underlying pavement. Sealcoat products that are coal-tar based typically contain 20 to 35 percent coal-tar pitch. Research shows it is used in United States states from Alaska to Florida, but several areas have banned its use in sealcoat products,  including the District of Columbia; the City of Austin, Texas; Dane County, Wisconsin; the state of Washington; and several municipalities in Minnesota and others.
Being flammable, coal tar is sometimes used for heating or to fire boilers. Like most heavy oils, it must be heated before it will flow easily.
A large part of the binder used in the graphite industry for making "green blocks" is coke oven volatiles (COV), a considerable portion of which is coal tar. During the baking process of the green blocks as a part of commercial graphite production, most of the coal tar binders are vaporised and are generally burned in an incinerator to prevent release into the atmosphere, as COV and coal tar can be injurious to health.
Coal tar is also used to manufacture paints, synthetic dyes (notably tartrazine/Yellow #5), and photographic materials.
In the coal gas era, there were many companies in Britain whose business was to distill coal tar to separate the higher-value fractions, such as naphtha, creosote and pitch. A great many industrial chemicals were first isolated from coal tar during this time. These companies included:
Side effects of coal tar products include skin irritation, sun sensitivity, allergic reactions, and skin discoloration. It is unclear if use during pregnancy is safe for the baby and use during breastfeeding is not typically recommended.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, coal tar is a valuable, safe and inexpensive treatment option for millions of people with psoriasis and other scalp or skin conditions. According to the FDA, coal tar concentrations between 0.5% and 5% are considered safe and effective for psoriasis.
Evidence is inconclusive whether the coal tar in the concentrations seen in non-prescription treatments causes cancer, because there is insufficient data to make a judgment. While coal tar consistently causes cancer in animal studies, short-term treatments of humans have shown no significant increase in rates of cancer. It's possible that the skin can repair itself after short-term exposure to PAHs, but not after long-term exposure.
Coal tar was one of the first chemical substances proven to cause cancer from occupational exposure, during research in 1775 on the cause of chimney sweeps' carcinoma. Modern studies have shown that working with coal tar pitch, such as during the paving of roads or when working on roofs, increases the risk of cancer.
Coal tar contains many polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and it is believed that their metabolites bind to DNA, damaging it. Long-term skin exposure to these compounds can produce "tar warts", which can progress to squamous cell carcinoma.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists coal tars as Group 1 carcinogens, meaning they directly cause cancer. Both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the state of California list coal tars as known human carcinogens.
The residue from the distillation of high-temperature coal tar, primarily a complex mixture of three or more membered condensed ring aromatic hydrocarbons, was listed on 28 October 2008 as a substance of very high concern by the European Chemicals Agency.
Coal tar contains approximately 10,000 chemicals, of which only about 50% have been identified. Components include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (4-rings: chrysene, fluoranthene, pyrene, triphenylene, naphthacene, benzanthracene, 5-rings: picene, benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[e]pyrene, benzofluoranthenes, perylene, 6-rings: dibenzopyrenes, dibenzofluoranthenes, benzoperylenes, 7-rings: coronene), as well as methylated and polymethylated derivatives, mono- and polyhydroxylated derivatives, and heterocyclic compounds. Others include benzene, toluene, xylenes, cumenes, coumarone, indene, benzofuran, naphthalene and methyl-naphthalenes, acenaphthene, fluorene, phenol, cresols, pyridine, picolines, phenanthracene, carbazole, quinolines, fluoranthene. Many of these constituents are known carcinogens.
Various phenolic coal tar derivatives have analgesic (pain-killer) properties. These included acetanilide, phenacetin, and paracetamol (acetaminophen). Paracetamol is the only coal-tar derived analgesic still in use today, but industrial phenol is now usually synthesized from crude oil rather than coal tar.
Exposure to coal tar pitch volatiles can occur in the workplace by breathing, skin contact, or eye contact. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set the permissible exposure limit) to 0.2 mg/m3 benzene-soluble fraction over an 8-hour workday. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set a recommended exposure limit (REL) of 0.1 mg/m3 cyclohexane-extractable fraction over an 8-hour workday. At levels of 80 mg/m3, coal tar pitch volatiles are immediately dangerous to life and health.
it was concluded that there is sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of occupational exposures during paving and roofing with coal tar pitch. ... Six coal-tar pitches and three extracts of coal-tar pitches all produced skin tumours, including carcinomas, when applied to the skin of mice
composition of coal tar will be influenced by the process used for pyrolytic distillation as well as by the original composition of the coal ... He then demonstrated excess cancers occurring in laboratory animals when coal tar is applied to the ears and skin ... [therapeutic effect] is thought to involve decreased epidermal proliferation ... Coal tar is classified as a human carcinogen ... Both inhalation and dermal routes of exposure are considered hazardous.
CAS No.: 8007-45-2, Agent: Coal tars (see Coal-tar distillation), Volume: 35, Sup 7, Year: 1987, Agent: Coal-tar distillation, Group: 1, Volume: 92, 100F, Year: 2012
Evidence for carcinogenicity to humans (sufficient)
keratolytic agent that inhibits excessive proliferation of epidermal cells by reducing DNA synthesis and mitotic activity to normal levels
...are classified as carcinogens of category 1B in accordance with Annex VI to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 of the European Parliament
Acenaphthene is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) consisting of naphthalene with an ethylene bridge connecting positions 1 and 8. It is a colourless solid. Coal tar consists of about 0.3% of this compound.Aniline
Aniline is an organic compound with the formula C6H5NH2. Consisting of a phenyl group attached to an amino group, aniline is the prototypical aromatic amine. Its main use is in the manufacture of precursors to polyurethane and other industrial chemicals. Like most volatile amines, it has the odor of rotten fish. It ignites readily, burning with a smoky flame characteristic of aromatic compounds.Benzole
In the United Kingdom, benzole or benzol is a coal-tar product consisting mainly of benzene and toluene. It was originally used as a 'motor spirit', as was petroleum spirits. Benzole was also blended with petrol and sold as a motor fuel under trade names including "National Benzole Mixture" and "Regent Benzole Mixture".Confusingly, in certain languages, such as German, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Russian the word "benzol" (or benzole) means benzene, and in some of these languages, words pronounced alike to benzene (e.g. the German word "Benzin") can mean petroleum or gasoline.Coal gas
Coal gas is a flammable gaseous fuel made from coal and supplied to the user via a piped distribution system. It is produced when coal is heated strongly in the absence of air. Town gas is a more general term referring to manufactured gaseous fuels produced for sale to consumers and municipalities.
Coal gas contains a variety of calorific gases including hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane, ethylene and volatile hydrocarbons together with small quantities of non-calorific gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
Prior to the development of natural gas supply and transmission—during the 1940s and 1950s in the United States and during the late 1960s and 1970s in Great Britain and Australia—virtually all gas for fuel and lighting was manufactured from coal. Town gas was supplied to households via municipally owned piped distribution systems.
Originally created as a by-product of the coking process, its use developed during the 19th and early 20th centuries tracking the industrial revolution and urbanization. By-products from the production process included coal tars and ammonia, which were important chemical feedstock for the dye and chemical industry with a wide range of artificial dyes being made from coal gas and coal tar. Facilities where the gas was produced were often known as a manufactured gas plant (MGP) or a gasworks.
The discovery of large reserves of natural gas in the North Sea off the English coast in 1965 led to the expensive conversion or replacement of most of the UK's gas cookers and gas heaters, except in Northern Ireland, from the late 1960s onwards.
The production process is distinct, both physically and chemically, from that used to create a range of gaseous fuels known variously as manufactured gas, syngas, hygas, Dowson gas, and producer gas. These gases are made by partial combustion of a wide variety of feed stocks in some mixture of air, oxygen, or steam, to reduce the latter to hydrogen and carbon dioxide although some destructive distillation may also occur.Creosote
Creosote is a category of carbonaceous chemicals formed by the distillation of various tars and pyrolysis of plant-derived material, such as wood or fossil fuel. They are typically used as preservatives or antiseptics.Some creosote types were used historically as a treatment for components of seagoing and outdoor wood structures to prevent rot (e.g., bridgework and railroad ties, see image). Samples may be commonly found inside chimney flues, where the coal or wood burns under variable conditions, producing soot and tarry smoke. Creosotes are the principal chemicals responsible for the stability, scent, and flavor characteristic of smoked meat; the name is derived from Greek, Modern κρέας (kreas), meaning 'meat', and σωτήρ (sōtēr), meaning 'preserver'.The two main kinds recognized in industry are coal-tar creosote and wood-tar creosote. The coal-tar variety, having stronger and more toxic properties, has chiefly been used as a preservative for wood; coal-tar creosote was also formerly used as an escharotic, to burn malignant skin tissue, and in dentistry, to prevent necrosis, before its carcinogenic properties became known. The wood-tar variety has been used for meat preservation, ship treatment, and such medical purposes as an anaesthetic, antiseptic, astringent, expectorant, and laxative, though these have mostly been replaced by modern formulations.Varieties of creosote have also been made from both oil shale and petroleum, and are known as oil-tar creosote when derived from oil tar, and as water-gas-tar creosote when derived from the tar of water gas. Creosote also has been made from pre-coal formations such as lignite, yielding lignite-tar creosote, and peat, yielding peat-tar creosote.Dandruff
Dandruff is a skin condition that mainly affects the scalp. Symptoms include flaking and sometimes mild itchiness. It can result in social or self-esteem problems. A more severe form of the condition, which includes inflammation of the skin, is known as seborrhoeic dermatitis.The cause is unclear but believed to involve a number of genetic and environmental factors. The condition may worsen in the winter. It is not due to poor hygiene. The underlying mechanism involves the over growth of skin cells. Diagnosis is based on symptoms.There is no known cure. The typical treatment is with antifungal cream such as ketoconazole. Dandruff affects about half of adults. Onset is usually at puberty. Males are more often affected than females. Rates decrease after the age of 50.Destructive distillation
Destructive distillation is the chemical process of the decomposition of unprocessed material by heating it to a high temperature; the term generally applies to processing of organic material in the absence of air or in the presence of limited amounts of oxygen or other reagents, catalysts, or solvents, such as steam or phenols. It is an application of pyrolysis. The process breaks up or 'cracks' large molecules. Coke, coal gas, gas carbon, coal tar, ammonia liquor, and "coal oil" are examples of commercial products historically produced by the destructive distillation of coal.
Destructive distillation of any particular inorganic feedstock produces only a small range of products as a rule, but destructive distillation of organic materials commonly produces very many compounds, often hundreds, although not all products of any particular process are of commercial importance. The distillate are generally lower molecular weight. Some fractions however polymerise or condense small molecules into larger molecules, including heat-stable tarry substances and chars. Cracking feedstocks into liquid and volatile compounds, and polymerising, or the forming of chars and solids, may both occur in the same process, and any class of the products might be of commercial interest.
Currently the major industrial application of destructive distillation is to coal.Historically the process of destructive distillation and other forms of pyrolysis led to the discovery of many chemical compounds or elucidation of their structures before contemporary organic chemists had developed the processes to synthesise or specifically investigate the parent molecules. It was especially in the early days that investigation of the products of destructive distillation, like those of other destructive processes, played parts in enabling chemists to deduce the chemical nature of many natural materials. Well known examples include the deduction of the structures of pyranoses and furanoses.Fluoranthene
Fluoranthene is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). The molecule can be viewed as the fusion of naphthalene and benzene unit connected by a five-membered ring. Although samples are often pale yellow, the compound is colorless. It is soluble in nonpolar organic solvents. It is a member of the class of PAHs known as non-alternant PAHs because it has rings other than those with six carbon atoms. It is a structural isomer of the alternant PAH pyrene. It is not as thermodynamically stable as pyrene. Its name is derived from its fluorescence under UV light.Fluorene
Fluorene , or 9H-fluorene, is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. It forms white crystals that exhibit a characteristic, aromatic odor similar to that of naphthalene. It is combustible. It has a violet fluorescence, hence its name. For commercial purposes it is obtained from coal tar. It is insoluble in water and soluble in many organic solvents.Koppers
Koppers is a global chemical and materials company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States in an art-deco 1920s skyscraper, the Koppers Tower.Naphtha
Naphtha ( or ) is a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture.
Mixtures labelled naphtha have been produced from natural gas condensates, petroleum distillates, and the distillation of coal tar and peat.
In different industries and regions naphtha may also be crude oil or refined products such as kerosene. Mineral spirits, also historically known as "naptha", are not the same chemical.Naphthalene
Naphthalene is an organic compound with formula C10H8. It is the simplest polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, and is a white crystalline solid with a characteristic odor that is detectable at concentrations as low as 0.08 ppm by mass. As an aromatic hydrocarbon, naphthalene's structure consists of a fused pair of benzene rings. It is best known as the main ingredient of traditional mothballs.Occupational acne
Occupational acne is caused by several different groups of industrial compounds, including coal tar derivatives, insoluble cutting oils, and chlorinated hydrocarbons (chlornaphthalenes, chlordiphenyls, and chlordiphenyloxides).Phototoxic tar dermatitis
Phototoxic tar dermatitis results from coal tar, creosote, crude coal tar, or pitch, in conjunction with sunlight exposure, which induces a sunburn reaction associated with severe burning sensation.Pitch (resin)
Pitch is a name for any of a number of viscoelastic polymers. Pitch can be natural or manufactured, derived from petroleum, coal tar, or plants. Various forms of pitch may also be called tar, bitumen, or asphalt. Pitch produced from plants is also known as resin. Some products made from plant resin are also known as rosin.
Pitch was traditionally used to help caulk the seams of wooden sailing vessels (see shipbuilding). Pitch may also be used to waterproof wooden containers and in the making of torches. Petroleum-derived pitch is black in colour, hence the adjectival phrase, "pitch-black".Sealcoat
Sealcoating, or pavement sealing, is the process of applying a protective coating to asphalt-based pavements to provide a layer of protection from the elements: water, oils, and U.V. damage.Seborrhoeic dermatitis
Seborrhoeic dermatitis, also known as seborrhoea, is a long-term skin disorder. Symptoms include red, scaly, greasy, itchy, and inflamed skin. Areas of the skin rich in oil-producing glands are often affected including the scalp, face, and chest. It can result in social or self-esteem problems. In babies, when the scalp is primarily involved, it is called cradle cap. Dandruff is a milder form of the condition, without associated inflammation.The cause is unclear but believed to involve a number of genetic and environmental factors. Risk factors include poor immune function, Parkinson disease, epilepsy, and Down syndrome. The condition may worsen with stress or during the winter. It is not a result of poor hygiene. Diagnosis is typically based on the symptoms.The typical treatment is antifungal cream and anti-inflammatory agents. Specifically ketoconazole or ciclopirox are effective. It is unclear if other antifungals, such as miconazole, are equally effective as they have been poorly studied. Other options may include coal tar and phototherapy.The condition is most common in those around the age of 50, during puberty, and among those less than three months old. In adults about 2% of people are affected. Males are more often affected than females. Up to 40% of babies may be affected to some degree.Tar
Tar is a dark brown or black viscous liquid of hydrocarbons and free carbon, obtained from a wide variety of organic materials through destructive distillation. Tar can be produced from coal, wood, petroleum, or peat.
Production and trade in pine-derived tar was a major contributor in the economies of Northern Europe and Colonial America. Its main use was in preserving wooden sailing vessels against rot. The largest user was the Royal Navy. Demand for tar declined with the advent of iron and steel ships.
Tar-like products can also be produced from other forms of organic matter, such as peat. Mineral products resembling tar can be produced from fossil hydrocarbons, such as petroleum. Coal tar is produced from coal as a byproduct of coke production.Tar paper
Tar paper is a heavy-duty paper used in construction. Tar paper is made by impregnating paper or fiberglass mat with tar, producing a waterproof material useful for roof construction. Tar paper is distinguished from roofing felt which is impregnated with asphalt instead of tar; but these two products are used the same way, and their names sometimes are used informally as synonyms.
Tar paper has been in use for centuries. Originally felt was made from recycled rags but today felts are made of recycled paper products (typically cardboard) and sawdust. The most common product is #15 felt. Before the oil crisis, felt weighed about 15 pounds per square (one square = 100 square feet) and hence the asphalt-impregnated felt was called "15#" and "15-pound felt". Modern, inorganic mats no longer weigh 0.73 kg/m2, and to reflect this fact the new felts are called "#15". In fact, #15 mats can weigh from 7.5 to 12.5 pounds/sq depending on the manufacturer and the standard to which felt is made (i.e., CGSB, ASTM D227 Standard Specification for Coal-tar saturated Organic Felt Used in Roofing and Waterproofing, ASTM D4990, Standard Specification for Coal Tar Glass Felt Used in Roofing and Waterproofing, or none). Thirty-pound (30#) felt is now #30 felt, and usually weighs 16 to 27 pounds per square.
Tar paper is more accurately a Grade D building paper (the Grade D designation derives from a federal specification in the United States), which is widely used in the West. Building paper is manufactured from virgin kraft paper, unlike felts, and then impregnated with asphalt. The longer fibres in the kraft paper allow for a lighter weight product with similar and often better mechanical properties than felt. Grade papers are rated in minutes—the amount of time it takes for a moisture sensitive chemical indicator to change colour when a small boat-like sample is floated on water. Common grades include 10, 20, 30, and 60 minute. The higher the rating the more moisture resistant and the heavier. A typical 20 minute paper will weigh about 3.3 lbs per square, a 30-minute paper 3.75, and a 60-minute paper about six. The smaller volume of material however does tend to make these papers less resistant to moisture than heavier felts.