3M to cease making and using dangerous ‘forever chemicals’

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Consumer products giant 3M announced on Tuesday that it will stop manufacturing and using a ubiquitous class of long-lived hazardous chemicals that may pose health risks to millions of Americans.

The Minnesota-based conglomerate, which makes widely used products including sticky notes, tape and safety masks, has pledged to “quit all manufacturing” and “work to end the use” of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substancesor PFAS, on all of its products by the end of 2025, according to a Press release. More commonly known as “eternal chemicals,” the compounds do not break down naturally and have been found in community water supplies across the country.

“With these two actions, 3M is committed to innovating towards a world less reliant on PFAS,” the statement said.

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Tuesday’s announcement comes as 3M faces a wave of lawsuits from states and individuals who claim PFAS contamination has harmed their health. Bloomberg intelligence estimates long-term legal liabilities could end up costing the company $30 billion or more. 3M’s current annual net sales of manufactured PFAS are approximately $1.3 billion, according to the company.

Exposure to certain levels of PFAS chemicals has been linked to infertility, developmental problems or delays in children and several types of cancer, among other health problems. Despite these known risks to humans, the chemicals that help make consumer goods resistant to water as well as stains and grease continue to show up in products such as cosmetics, dental floss , food packaging and clothing.

The Biden Administration has taken steps to regulate PFAS in various ways. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would set enforceable drinking water limits on certain compounds.

Since then, the EPA has publicly warned that chemicals pose a greater danger to human health than regulators previously realized. In August, the agency also classification proposal two of these most common chemical compounds – PFOA and PFOS – are dangerous.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan tweeted On Tuesday afternoon, “protecting people from PFAS pollution is one of my top priorities,” and he pledged “to hold polluters accountable and protect public health.”

Major US manufacturers, including 3M, long ago agreed to stop manufacturing PFOA and PFOS once their health risks became clear. 3M hired in 2000 to phase out both chemicals, but he continued to use other types of “forever chemicals”, of which there are thousands with varying properties.

In the Tuesday announcement, 3M argued that the class of chemicals continues to be “essential to modern life”. The latest decision “is based on an evolving external landscape,” the company said, pointing to regulatory repression as well as pressure from consumers and investors.

“While PFAS can be safely manufactured and used, we also see an opportunity to lead in a rapidly changing external regulatory and business landscape to have the greatest impact for those we serve,” said the CEO. 3M General Mike Roman in the press release.

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The company did not specify exactly how it plans to achieve its goals, noting, “We have already reduced our use of PFAS over the past three years through ongoing research and development, and we will continue to innovate as new solutions for our customers.

John Rumpler, senior clean water manager for Environment America, called 3M’s announcement “good news for clean water.”

“For the sake of our health and our environment, we hope that 3M will phase out production of PFAS before 2025 and that other companies will follow,” he said in a statement.

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Others questioned the company’s motivation.

Erik Olson, senior strategic director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview that 3M’s announcement almost certainly stemmed in part from the “massive liability” the company faces.

“Virtually all Americans are to go for a walk with PFAS in their bodies,” Olson said. “The writing is on the wall that continuing to manufacture these chemicals puts their shareholders and their business at risk.”

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Olson and other environmental advocates hope 3M’s decision to move away from PFAS chemicals sends a powerful signal to other companies to “follow up and get out of this dangerous chemistry,” he said. -he declares. But he is skeptical that will happen soon.

“There is a risk that others see a void that needs to be filled,” he said.

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Dino Grandoni contributed to this report.

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