Measurements of black carbon (BC) using either chemical or thermal oxidation methods are generally thought to indicate the amount of char and/or soot present in a sample. In urban environments, however, asphalt and coal-tar particles worn from pavement are ubiquitous and, because of their pyrogenic origin, could contribute to measurements of BC. Here we explored the effect of the presence of asphalt and coal-tar particles on the quantification of BC in a range of urban environmental sample types, and evaluated biases in the different methods used for quantifying BC. Samples evaluated were pavement dust, residential and commercial area soils, lake sediments from a small urban watershed, and reference materials of asphalt and coal tar. Total BC was quantified using chemical treatment through acid dichromate (Cr2O7) oxidation and chemo-thermal oxidation at 375??C (CTO-375). BC species, including soot and char/charcoal, asphalt, and coal tar, were quantified with organic petrographic analysis. Comparison of results by the two oxidation methods and organic petrography indicates that both coal tar and asphalt contribute to BC quantified by Cr2O7 oxidation, and that coal tar contributes to BC quantified by CTO-375. These results are supported by treatment of asphalt and coal-tar reference samples with Cr2O7 oxidation and CTO-375. The reference asphalt is resistant to Cr2O7 oxidation but not to CTO-375, and the reference coal tar is resistant to both Cr2O7 oxidation and CTO-375. These results indicate that coal tar and/or asphalt can contribute to BC measurements in samples from urban areas using Cr2O7 oxidation or CTO-375, and caution is advised when interpreting BC measurements made with these methods. ?? 2010 Elsevier Ltd.