The 3M Company has made the long-awaited announcement that it will cease manufacturing toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by 2025. But the manufacturer will still be subject to years of liability exposure for the “forever chemicals'” negative effects on human health and environmental damage.
It is well known that these substances accumulate in the body and remain in the environment. The corporation asserts that the choice was made after considering a number of variables, including increased legislation aimed at removing PFAS from the environment.
However, the action appears to be directly tied to the anticipated losses the business is probably going to incur from PFAS water contamination litigation settlements, which are being sought by towns nationally and by people who have been diagnosed with fatal illnesses.
PFAS Contamination and Health Risks
Since the 1940s, PFAS have been widely utilized in consumer and commercial items to withstand grease, oil, and water. They are a class of over 9,000 man-made compounds. They are found in a variety of items, including non-stick frying pans, pizza boxes, and other materials.
However, the widespread use of these substances has resulted in serious environmental contamination, particularly as a result of firefighting foam, which has been employed for many years to put out fuel-based fires, particularly at military bases, airports, and other training grounds for firefighter personnel.
A wide range of health issues, including cancer, ulcerative colitis, and other ailments, have been related to exposure to PFAS chemicals. According to a recent study in the journal Occupational Medicine, firefighters had a 60% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general population.
The mortality rate for prostate cancer was four times higher, leukemia was three times higher, and kidney cancer was twice as common in firefighters than in the general population. The researchers highlighted that carcinogenic compounds in AFFF may be a major contributor.
PFAS Water Contamination Lawsuits
Former users are filing a firefighting foam cancer lawsuit against 3M and other manufacturers as a result of the harmful effects of these chemicals, asserting that they were not sufficiently warned about the health hazards of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which is used by both armed services and civilian firefighters.
In addition, a number of cities and local water suppliers have brought lawsuits, primarily against 3M, over the price of removing contaminants from drinking water. Individuals who resided near military installations and other places with high amounts of the chemicals in their tap water have also filed water pollution claims against the firm.
There were 100 new cases submitted to the AFFF firefighting foam class action MDL between November 15 and December 15, 2022.
3M’s Decision to Exit PFAS Manufacturing
By the end of 2025, according to a press release from 3M dated December 20, the company will exit PFAS manufacturing. The corporation asserts that the choice was made after considering a number of variables, including increased legislation aimed at removing PFAS from the environment.
The decision, however, appears to be directly tied to the upcoming losses the business would probably incur as a result of PFAS water contamination litigation settlement payments.
While it transitions, 3M promises to uphold current contractual commitments and assist other firms that buy the chemicals in doing the same. In the same time span, the business says it will seek to stop using PFAS products throughout its whole range.
Critics point out that despite the decision, 3M will still be subject to hundreds of lawsuits alleging that its firefighting foam and other chemical products led to water pollution and negative health issues across the country.
Approximately 3,000 product liability lawsuits involving toxic PFAS effects are currently pending across the country against 3M and a variety of other businesses. In each case, it is alleged that the defendants failed to disclose the risks to consumers’ long-term health associated with exposure to the chemicals.
Following two decades of litigation, PFAS, sometimes known as “forever chemicals,” emerged as a genuinely global legacy hazard in 2022, after being mostly confined in US courts.
The fact that 3M has decided to cease making PFAS chemicals is a positive move, but it does not take away from the harm that these chemicals have previously done. Numerous lawsuits will still be filed against the firm due to the environmental harm and health dangers associated with PFAS chemicals.
It is imperative that additional measures be taken to remediate the damage PFAS chemicals have caused and stop such pollution in the future. Collaboration between businesses, the government, and citizens is necessary to phase out these dangerous chemicals and discover safer substitutes.
Although this is a positive development, it is nevertheless necessary to maintain vigilance in order to safeguard public health and the environment.