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Kepone, also known as chlordecone, is a carcinogenic insecticide related to mirex, used between 1966 and 1975 in the USA for ant and roach baits. It was produced by Allied Signal Company in Hopewell, Virginia and produced nationwide pollution controversy due to improper handling and dumping of the substance into the James River. Its use was banned in 1975.

Chemically, kepone is a chlorinated polycyclic ketone insecticide and fungicide with the chemical formula 10210. The dry powder is readily absorbed through the skin and respiratory tract. Some unprotected production workers exposed to Kepone powder suffered tremors, jerky eye movements, memory loss, headaches, slurred speech, unsteadiness, lack of coordination, loss of weight, rash, enlarged liver, decreased libido, sterility, chest pain, arthralgia, and the increased risk of developing cancer. Kepone persists in the environment, with a half-life of about 30 years.

In July 2005, a Richmond Magazine article chronicled the ill health effects on Allied Signal employees and described how Dan Rather and CBS's 60 Minutes brought nationwide attention to the problem.

Due to the pollution scare, many businesses and restaurants along the river suffered, and then-Governor Mills Godwin Jr. shut down the James River to fishing from Richmond to the Chesapeake Bay.

Kepone in popular culture

The Dead Kennedys recorded a song named "Kepone Factory", deliberately referring to the chemical compound Kepone, for their 1981 album In God We Trust, Inc.. The song was written in 1978 and was performed live despite not appearing on any recording until 1981.

Kepone (band) was also an American indie rock band based out of Richmond, Virginia. Formed in 1991 ) the band's name is derived from the Kepone crisis that occurred in the Richmond area in the 1970's. Originally formed as a sideproject of Michael Bishop, ex-bassist of GWAR.

The Richmond, Virginia punk band Avail recorded a song named "Scuffle Town" on their 1998 album, Over the James that is written entirely about the city of Richmond. In the very beginning of the song there is a reference to the presence of Kepone in the James River.


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