How to Poison the World? 3M Seems to Have the Answer

Having penetrated multiple industrial segments, 3M is one company that requires no introduction. Spanning across industry verticals, this American juggernaut has 60,000 products under its production belt. 

Though the company has weathered the volatile market till now, the tables have recently flipped. 3M is accused of poisoning practically every person on the Earth currently alive. The company’s damaged reputation is a self-inflicted wound of its unchecked chemical production, primarily of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

Should this be a matter of concern since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) governs the chemical sector? Yes because PFAS are currently out of control! The EPA must still tackle PFAS remediation for 180 Superfund locations. This article will discuss PFAS toxicity in-depth, including 3M’s role in poisoning the world. 

A Brief History of PFAS

Let’s clarify one thing first – PFAS is not a single chemical. Over 12,000 synthetic chemicals with an unbreakable bond of carbon and fluorine make up this group. They came into existence only in the 1940s. 

In the early 1950s, the American multinational 3M started producing two chemicals from the group – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). These two became commercially popular for their water and grease-repellent properties. 

Soon enough, PFAS could be found in a range of consumer goods, even Class B firefighting foam. By consumer products, we mean non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets, and waterproof garments. 

Active Litigation and Settlements 

PFAS can rightfully be called the ‘devil they knew.’ After all, word spread that 3M had full knowledge of the threat they posed to human health and the environment. Even then, the company kept the truth buried until the 1990s. 

If anything, this shady behavior earned the conglomerate juicy profits for decades. The steady stream was disturbed in the 2000s when firefighter cancer cases were reported. At first, the direct link with PFAS was not known or established.

As the first decade of the 21st century wrapped up, the connection became unmistakable. Studies made it apparent that Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), containing PFAS, caused cancer of the kidneys, testicles, bladder, etc. 

By 2017, injured firemen dragged PFAS producers to the Federal court. The litigation picked up steam within a year. In 2018, a class-action multi-district litigation (MDL) was created given the rising number of similar lawsuits. 

According to TorHoerman Law, personal injury cases made up one half, whereas water contamination lawsuits made up the other. Municipalities were facing water contamination issues due to PFAS. 

Since PFAS do not easily degrade into the environment or the human body, their ‘eternal’ nature was haunting. Water contamination cases of the firefighter foam lawsuit went to trial first. In June 2023, 3M agreed to pay a settlement amount of $10.3 billion to close all water pollution cases. 

Municipalities would receive the funds over 13 years for PFAS detection and removal. Currently, the court is reviewing another type of AFFF which has a lower concentration of PFAS. Along with Telomere-based AFFF cases, the focus has shifted toward personal injury cases. 

The judge recently considered that firefighters’ turnout gear also has harmful traces of PFAS. It is expected that these will also be taken up soon for Bellwether trials and fair settlements. In a nutshell, the litigation against 3M, DuPont, and others is progressing in the plaintiffs’ favor. 

Plunging the World Into a Nightmare 

Shall we rejoice that 3M is finally paying in kind for its incredibly selfish and evil acts? Yes, because victims deserve to know the truth and be compensated for their injuries. However, if only the litigation and its settlements would somehow eradicate PFAS from the earth. 

The elephant in the room is the ‘forever’ nature of these chemicals. With decades of production, 3M has successfully released PFAS into every corner of the world. Studies have found that 50% of US tap water has harmful traces of PFAS. 

Moreover, the rainwater across the Earth has these chemicals, even that of Antarctica. It won’t be wrong to describe PFAS as ubiquitous since they are still used in cookware, waterproof garments, and cosmetics. As a result, they are disrupting hormones and causing all kinds of reproductive problems. 

A recent study revealed that processed foods like butter, soda, white sugar, meats, etc., can increase the levels of PFAS in one’s body. Moreover, restaurant packages are lined with these chemicals. Those who order takeout frequently are also at risk of higher PFAS levels in their blood. 

In short, PFAS has become more than just a nuisance. Every living being in the world today has varying degrees of PFAS in their body. These chemicals can take years to partially eliminate from the system. 

3M has promised to stop manufacturing PFAS by the end of 2025 but the damage done is irreversible to a large extent. The poison will only leave the Earth when a concrete solution for PFAS breakdown is discovered.