3M Co., the developer of “forever chemicals” in the sights of federal regulators, said it would phase out manufacturing PFAS chemicals and stop using them in its products by the end of 2025.
3M developed PFOA and PFOS in the 1940s and has since produced products with PFAS worth about $1.3 billion a year.
The company said its products are safe for their intended uses and that it would continue defending itself in court. The company’s leader said its decision to stop manufacturing and using PFAS chemicals would help the company grow.
"This is a moment that demands the kind of innovation 3M is known for," said 3M chairman and CEO Mike Roman in a press release. "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. This action is another example of how we are positioning 3M for continued sustainable growth by optimizing our portfolio, innovating for our customers, and delivering long-term value for our shareholders."
PFAS chemicals are extremely useful, as they are used to make products resistant to heat, water, grease and stains. 3M currently manufactures products like Scotchgard, a fabric protector that uses a PFAS chemical called fluorochemical urethane.
Historically, the company manufactured products made with PFOA and PFOS, including military firefighting foam called aqueous film forming foam.
3M stopped manufacturing PFOA and PFOS in the early 2000s, but the chemicals continue having an effect on human health and the environment.
The chemicals can stay in the environment for an extremely long time, potentially thousands of years. Researchers have found PFAS chemicals like PFOA and PFOS stay in the human body for at least five years after they are introduced.
PFOA, PFOS and other PFAS chemicals have been linked to a series of health conditions like increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, increased cholesterol levels, liver damage, decreased vaccine response in children, increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women and other health conditions.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has found PFAS chemicals in several mid-sized community water systems.
PFOA has been detected in drinking water from Indiana American Water–Charlestown, Rural Membership Water Corp. of Clark County, North Manchester Water Department and Tennyson Water Utility, sometimes at 1,500 times a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health advisory. PFOS has been detected in drinking water from Rural Membership Water Corp. of Clark County and Tennyson Water Utility.
The company has faced hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits from multiple state and local governments for health and cleanup costs . 3M has also been sued by governments outside the U.S., like Belgium, where the company settled a PFAS lawsuit for $581 million.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun the process of regulating PFOA and PFOS in various ways, including designating them as hazardous substances under the nation’s Superfund law and regulating the amount of the chemicals allowed in drinking water.