Bye, Bye PFAS
After Decades of Deception, 3M Will Stop Manufacturing Toxic "Forever Chemicals."
Well, it’s not exactly an early Christmas present, but this week 3M announced that by the end of 2025 it will halt the manufacturing PFAS and work to discontinue the use of these toxic “forever chemicals.”
Too little, too late? I’d say so.
3M has known for more than 50 years that PFAS chemicals are toxic, yet continued to be one of the leading producers of PFAS.
Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) was the key ingredient of Scotchgard, a fabric protector made by the global conglomerate, was introduced to the market in the 1950s and became the benchmark for protecting carpets from stains.
As early as the 1950s, 3M’s own studies showed that PFAS chemicals built up in blood, and by the 1960s, 3M’s own animal studies showed the potential for harm.
Since then, hundreds of studies have been published, identifying the health risks associated with PFAS chemicals.
“PFOS is persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic to mammalian species,” according to a 2002 study by the environmental directorate of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Persistent, accumulative, and toxic are not a good combination.
The companies that made these toxic substances knew about their health impacts decades ago.
Yet 3M continued to produce PFAS chemicals without notifying its employees of the risks, not to mention the many communities who have suffered as a result.
In 2010, the Minnesota attorney general and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources filed a $5 billion lawsuit against 3M, headquartered in Maplewood, for damages to the environment.
The lawsuit claimed that 3M released PFAS into the nearby groundwater and in 2004 the chemicals were detected in the drinking water of 67,000 people in Lake Elmo, Oakdale, Woodbury, and Cottage Grove.
While the company tried to argue that no health effect to humans had ever been proven, documents released in the case showed that 3M researchers knew these chemicals could bioaccumulate in fish and that the compounds were toxic.
3M settled the suit for $850 million in 2018, and afterward the Minnesota attorney general’s office released many internal documents including studies, memos, emails, and research reports, showing how much 3M really knew about these chemicals and their harm to both people and the environment.
“After telling everyone—their neighbors, their workers and their regulators—that PFAS are safe while poisoning the entire planet, 3M is now pledging to slink out the back door with no accountability,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in a statement. “Congress and the courts cannot allow this to happen, and no one should trust 3M’s commitment to do the right thing. They never have before.”
The current annual net sales of manufactured PFAS are approximately $1.3 billion, representing just a small portion of 3M's overall revenue.
PFAS build up in our bodies and never break down in the environment. Very low doses of PFAS have been linked to suppression of the immune system, including reduced vaccine efficacy. These chemicals harm development and the reproductive system, such as reduced birth weight and impacts on fertility; increase risk of certain cancers; and affect metabolism, such as changes in cholesterol and weight gain.
3M believes science helps create a brighter world for everyone. My hope is that a scientific breakthrough can help us find a way to rid the planet of these toxic substances. Wouldn’t it be great if 3M put some resources toward that?
Those who created it should be part of cleaning it up. The truth is out there and now it’s time to clean up your mess.
On a more positive note at the end of this year, here are a few stories of those working for a better planet and clean water.
We Are The Water
Watch as three generations of women fight against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion that threatens the Salish Sea, the resident orcas and the livelihoods of the Coast Salish people.
Jackson’s Fight For Clean Water
Months after a crisis left Jackson, Mississippi, without running water, residents still don’t trust a water system that has plagued them for decades. Learn how the community is coping and working for a better tomorrow.
Secret of Water
Water is a living substance—the most common and least understood. It defies the basic laws of physics, yet holds the keys to life. Known to the ancients as a transmitter to and from the higher realms, water retains hidden messages and conveys information to DNA.