3M announced Tuesday it will phase out production of mono- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by the end of 2025, due to accelerated regulations restricting the chemicals, changing stakeholder expectations and other reasons.
“This is a monumental step for a major PFAS manufacturer to announce that they plan to phase out PFAS production. I hope this sets a precedent for other PFAS manufacturers in the US and around the world, and we see more companies follow suit,” said Andrea Amico, co-founder of Testing for Pease. Community group focuses on PFAS concerns stemming from former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, NH
But details are needed about how 3M defines PFAS and the company’s continued responsibility for past actions, said Amico and others who live in communities where contamination of drinking water and soil by the chemical has led to PFAS in their bodies. above average amounts.
The trial will continue
“In terms of the 3M litigation, I don’t see this move immediately slowing the litigation against them,” said John Gardella, a partner at CMBG3 Law who leads the firm’s PFAS, environmental, risk management and consulting practice group.
“Litigation currently focuses primarily on legacy PFAS, which already have extensive environmental contamination problems,” he said.
But 3M’s move “opens the door for international companies to step in and fill the gap to supply PFAS to some U.S. industries,” Gardella said. “I think U.S. companies can clearly act because of their current involvement in PFAS litigation, and companies that don’t want to expand their liability risk.”
“Additionally, I believe that as more states begin to implement various PFAS bans and the federal government strengthens its PFAS regulation through various means, companies will not want to take the available market share once 3M is out.” : I think the focus will shift to the production of PFAS substitutes, and time will tell if they carry their own future risks and liability issues.”
“We’re going to be dealing with environmental and health consequences for many decades to come,” said Fred Thompson III, an attorney with Motley Rice LLC, which represents the plaintiffs in In Re Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Prod. Liab. The lawsuit, a multi-party lawsuit involving thousands of claims against 3M and other companies that made the chemicals into specialty firefighting foams or the foams themselves.
“It’s our responsibility to make sure the people who know and have profited pay for as much of the mess as we can before it falls on the taxpayers to suck it up,” he said.
Search for suppliers, substitutes
Companies that buy fluoropolymers and other types of chemicals 3M makes could influence its decision, said Lawrence E. Kalin, a partner at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, who advises businesses that buy chemicals to make electronics and other products.
Trade associations representing the semiconductor, telephone, automotive, aerospace and other industries are among those that have often told the EPA as it sought to regulate PFAS that the chemicals, particularly fluoropolymers, were critical to their for production.
Typical ways companies deal with such supply concerns include identifying other companies that can produce the chemicals or finding new ways to make products without the materials, Kalin said.
“The question now is whether other companies will follow suit for human and global concerns and develop more sustainable and non-toxic products,” said Lorin Hackett of Hoosick Falls, New York, who works for the PFOA Project NY. with
Hackett and others in affected communities, along with the Environmental Working Group, which has raised concerns about PFAS for 20 years, were skeptical of 3M’s announcement.
“I wouldn’t trust it one bit until I see independent science confirm that products that claim to be PFAS-free really are PFAS-free,” said Lauren Allen, director of Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water. Co-Founder of Merrimack, NH.
“We’ll have to watch their actions closely to make sure this announcement isn’t just smoke and mirrors,” Amico added.
3M made a similar announcement about the two most well-studied types of PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), said Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear, an organization created to protect residents. chemicals. Under pressure from the EPA, 3M announced in 2000 that it would voluntarily phase out PFOS and related chemicals.
“Absent from those conversations was a transparent plan for alternative green chemistry solutions,” Donovan said.
After 3M stopped making PFOS, PFOA became the go-to compound for making fluorochemicals, and then GenX became its replacement.
“Today, residents in southeastern North Carolina have two to three times more PFOA in their blood than the national average, in addition to GenX and hundreds of other unregulated PFASs that have come from the Fayetteville Works facility over the decades,” Donovan said. : .
PFOA is produced
EI du Pont de Nemours’ chemical business and its fluorochemical line were spun off
“As we saw when 3M pulled out of the PFOS market decades ago, there will always be another polluter who stands to profit from poisoning their neighbors and workers,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. : “The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration must move quickly to stop the unnecessary use of PFAS, strictly regulate PFAS releases, and hold companies like 3M accountable.”