UPDATED Air Alliance Houston Responds to Statement by Shell on the Danger to the Community (May 6, 2023)

Media contact: Riikka Pohjankoski, 713-589-7079, [email protected]

HOUSTON – Last night, after a fire erupted and burned for hours at their facility, sending nine people for medical evaluation, Shell Chemical officials said “There is no danger to the nearby community.” This is patently false. Smoke from fire, by definition, contains Particulate Matter, one of the most dangerous air pollutants, lodging in lungs and causing respiratory issues. 

Moreover, during events like this, other toxic chemicals made or in use at the facility are also released into the air. This particular plant manufactures olefins, such as ethylene, propylene, and butadiene, which are known carcinogens. Since the facility has 24 hours to self-report the amount of emissions released, stating there is no harm is knowingly misleading.

Jennifer Hadayia, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston said: “Every time there is an event – a large-scale fire like what happened yesterday, or even everyday flares – industry representatives tell us there is no cause for concern, that the lingering smells, smoky air, and even itchy throats and coughs are ‘normal.’ History has shown that these early statements are for the benefit of industry public relations and not public health.”

As evidence: a two-part investigative report released this week by the Public Health Watch and the Texas Tribune about a fire in 2019 at the nearby ITC petrochemical tank farm in Deer Park revealed that toxic levels of benzene lingered in the air for days after the disaster, even though industry and regulatory officials told residents the air was safe. This was due to the use of inadequately protective standards for benzene risk.

The mistakes of the past cannot be repeated. Industry and regulatory officials must be transparent about what has been released into the air and its implications for health. As they monitor the air following yesterday’s event, they must use air toxics standards that are scientifically up-to-date and protective of public health. Exposure to these chemicals can have harmful health effects even in the short-term. We recommend that anyone who has been in the vicinity of the fire and is experiencing health issues to seek medical advice.

About Air Alliance Houston 
Air Alliance Houston is a non-profit advocacy organization working to reduce the public health impacts from air pollution and advance environmental justice through applied research, education, and advocacy. For more information and resources, please visit

Previous statement on the Shell Deer Park explosion

Air Alliance Houston Statement on the Shell Deer Park Chemical Plant Fire in Deer Park, Texas (May 5, 2023)

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