3M: We'll Stop Making 'Forever Chemicals'

Industry giant announces a big move on PFAS linked to cancers
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2022 11:18 AM CST
3M: We'll Stop Making 'Forever Chemicals'
PFAS foam gathers at the Van Etten Creek dam in Oscoda Township, Michigan, on June 7, 2018.   (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)

The conglomerate 3M announced a big move Tuesday on what have come to be known as "forever chemicals"—the company will stop making them and plans to be rid of them entirely by the end of 2025, reports CNN. Such chemicals are more formally known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, and they have the "forever" nickname because that's about how long they remain in the environment, per the Wall Street Journal. They've been used for years in everything from firefighters' foam to nonstick cookware because of their ability to repel water, grease, heat, oil, and stains.

However, PFAS—which encompass more than 5,000 different chemicals, per Axios—also have been increasingly linked to human cancers and other ailments. 3M acknowledged that "accelerating regulatory" demands in the US and abroad factored into the change. The EPA is in the process of cracking down on PFAS in drinking water systems, for example, while the European Union wants to restrict all PFAS. Minnesota Public Radio notes that 3M settled a lawsuit with the state of Minnesota in 2018 for $850 million because of groundwater contamination. Two spins on the new development:

  • From 3M: "While PFAS can be safely made and used, we also see an opportunity to lead in a rapidly evolving external regulatory and business landscape to make the greatest impact for those we serve," said 3M Chief Executive Mike Roman.
  • From a critic: "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 of the Environmental Working Group, per MPR. "Congress and the courts cannot allow this happen, and no one should trust 3M's commitment to do the right thing."
(Read more chemicals stories.)

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