Creosote is a wood preservative used to treat railroad ties, telephone poles and many wood products. Creosote is obtained from high temperature distillation of coal tar which itself a mixture of hundreds of organic substances. It is used as a fungicide, insecticide, miticide, and sporicide to protect wood and is applied by pressure methods to wood products, primarily utility poles and railroad ties. Each year workers are exposed to high concentrations of creosote and may face serious health consequences.
Hazardous waste sites represent a major source of creosote, coal tar, and coal tar pitch contamination. Individuals working in the wood-preserving industry make up the largest part of the population who risk exposure to coal tar creosote. Individuals who live in areas formerly used as sites for wood-preserving facilities may face exposure if the soil was never cleaned up.
The most common way for creosote to enter the body when present in soils is through the skin. In addition, children may ingest creosote if they put their unwashed hands in their mouths after touching soil or wood contaminated with creosote. The most common way that creosote enters the body for individuals in the wood-preserving industry is through the lungs.
Asphalt workers; rubber, aluminum, iron, steel, and tire factory workers; and people working in the coke-producing industries also risk potential exposure to coal tar pitch and coal tar pitch volatiles. They may breathe in vapors from or have direct skin contact with wood-preservation solutions, freshly treated wood, asphalt mixtures, or other products of coke-producing industries. Workers who work with creosote-treated wood in building fences, bridges, or railroad tracks or installing telephone poles may face exposure.
Those who inspect or maintain these materials, or apply asphalt or other coal tar pitch-containing materials, also risk exposure. Creosotes and coal tar products can enter the body through the lungs, stomach, intestines, and skin. The amount that enters the body depends on the type of contact (via air, food, water, skin), how much of the mixture is present, and the length of exposure.
Exposure to creosotes, coal tar, coal tar pitch, or coal tar pitch volatiles may result in minor to serious health effects. Eating food or drinking water contaminated with a high level of these compounds may cause a burning in the mouth and throat as well as stomach pain. Taking herbal remedies containing creosote bush leaves may result in damage to the liver or kidney. Reports describing poisoning in workers exposed to coal tar creosote, or in people who accidentally or intentionally ate coal tar creosote indicate that brief exposure to large amounts of coal tar creosote may result in a rash or severe irritation of the skin, chemical burns of the surfaces of the eye, convulsions and mental confusion, kidney or liver problems, unconsciousness, or even death.
Longer exposures to the vapors of the creosotes, coal tar, coal tar pitch, or coal tar pitch volatiles can also cause irritation of the respiratory tract. Skin cancer and cancer of the scrotum have also resulted from long exposure to low levels of these chemical mixtures, especially through direct contact with the skin during wood treatment or manufacture of coal tar creosote-treated products, or in coke or natural gas factories. Prolonged skin exposure to soot and coal tar creosote has been associated with cancer of the scrotum in chimney sweeps.
Legal Help For Victims Affected By Creosote
If you or a loved one suffered side effects and injuries from Creosote, please fill out the form at the right for a free case evaluation by a qualified pollutants attorney or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).