3M to phase out 'forever chemicals' PFAS by 2025
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US industrial giant 3M announced Tuesday it will phase out production of so-called "forever chemical" PFAS in light of tightening regulation connected to harmful health effects from their use.
3M will exit polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) manufacturing by the end of 2025 and discontinue use across its product portfolio under the same timeframe, moves that are expected to result in pre-tax costs of $1.3 to $2.3 billion.
Known for the lengthy amount of time required before they break down and widely employed in Teflon and other goods, PFAS are man-made chemicals produced since the 1940s and now widely present in soil and water as well as in humans, fish and other wildlife.
"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 Mike Roman, chief executive of 3M, which is also the maker of Scotch tape, N-95 face masks and other goods.
PFAS have a strong bond between fluorine and carbon, promoting "strength, durability, stability and resilience" in cellphones, aircraft and other industrial products, according to the American Chemistry Council.
But NGOs such as Earthjustice have fought to curtail their production, citing studies that show the enduring nature of the chemicals can lead to increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, a decreased response to vaccines in children and other ills.
In October 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a "strategic roadmap" to restrict PFAS releases to the environment, clean up contaminated sites and undertake investments in research.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan described the roadmap as a response to "people who are hurting" from exposure to PFAS, especially in underserved communities.
3M's production of PFAS has spurred numerous lawsuits and regulatory cases.
In October 2021, 3M agreed to pay $99 million to settle a lawsuit related to PFAS production in Alabama.
3M said Tuesday that its annual net sales of manufactured PFAS are about $1.3 billion.