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Shell toxic chemical legacy in USA

By a Former Shell Employee

The articles and comments below pertain to Shell’s role and subsequent liabilities arising from deadly contamination at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Colorado.

The Washington Post: Shell Oil Found Liable for Pollution Cleanup; Insurers Win; Rocky Mountain Arsenal Project May Cost $2 Billion: December 20, 1988

Shell Oil Co. is responsible for cleaning up three decades worth of pesticide pollution at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a San Mateo County Superior Court jury decided today. The project could cost as much as $2 billion.

The verdict was a victory for 250 insurance companies, which argued that Shell knew of the pollution at the facility northeast of Denver and so was not covered by its 800 different policies any more than a homeowner who set fire to his own home.

The trial, which began in October 1987, was held in a makeshift courtroom at a high school to allow room for dozens of …

Time Magazine: Environment: The Dieldrin Dilemma (extracts)

Monday, Sep. 02, 1974

Nearly 10% of the U.S. corn crop is treated with aldrin, a highly effective pesticide. Both the manufacturer, Shell Chemical, and the Department of Agriculture consider the substance essential to control insect damage in the Midwest corn belt. Recently, after a year of still-unfinished hearings, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it plans to order a halt in the production of aldrin and a related Shell pesticide, dieldrin. Reason: the chemicals present “extremely high cancer risk.”

After it is applied, aldrin gradually breaks down into dieldrin, a durable chlorinated hydrocarbon; the pesticide is long-lasting and requires only one application per year. That makes it more popular with farmers than shorter-lived, less potent pesticides that must be used more often and only at specific stages of the corn plants’ growth. Dieldrin’s impressive durability, says the EPA, is the very quality that makes it an increasingly serious threat.

From cornstalks and from soybeans raised in fields previously treated with the chemical, dieldrin finds its way into animal feed. Then, because it is readily retained in fatty tissues, it accumulates and becomes concentrated in farm animals. Millions of chickens had to be destroyed last March in Mississippi because their feed had been contaminated with dieldrin. The chemical also washes into rivers and lakes and is ingested by fish. In fact, dieldrin is now found in nearly every edible product in the supermarket. A 1973 market-basket sampling by the Food and Drug Administration shows 96% of meat, fish and poultry was contaminated, and tests by the EPA have found that 99.5% of the population have some dieldrin in their body fat with an average residue level of 0.3 parts per mil lion. Levels build up faster among infants, because the chemical is concentrated in milk.

No one disputes the fact that by now most Americans have a significant amount of dieldrin in their bodies, but there is still debate about whether the levels are sufficient to cause cancer. Mice given food with levels of dieldrin similar to those in human foods have developed cancer, especially of the liver. Shell says that there is no evidence that those results apply to humans; the EPA insists that dieldrin has “unreasonable and adverse effects on man.” In addition to the cancer risk, says EPA Administrator Russell Train, dieldrin has been found to hamper reproduction in birds and to cause birth defects and mental impairment in monkeys.

With its 1975 production of aldrin scheduled to begin on Sept. 1, Shell has been granted a hearing on the ban order and hopes for a quick final decision by the EPA. But at week’s end, it seemed all but certain that next year corn growers will no longer have aldrin/dieldrin to kill their bugs.

And of course, Shell considered the production of that particular doublet of pesticides vital to preserving corn crop yields. 35 years later we get along without those very dangerous chemicals just fine. It is amazing how the ‘profit motive’ tilts one’s objectivity.

Enclosed is a file of a legal ‘consent decree’ between the State of Colorado and Shell. ConsentDecree

Shell was the defendant in this civil lawsuit. The agreement was entered into in 2008.

Attached is a file on Shell’s production of the three ‘..drins’. aldrin-dieldrin-eng

Apparently, Shell UK was the last known producer of these pesticides, and production ceased in 1989. However, stocks of the chemical were shipped to third world countries. These guys are truly ‘good citizens’.

RELATED WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE: Pollution at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Denver, Colorado and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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