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One of the United States’ largest manufacturing companies has announced that it will stop making and using so-called “forever chemicals” amid tightening regulations and multiple lawsuits.

3M Co. said that it will cease per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) manufacturing and work to discontinue the use of PFAS across its products by the end of 2025.

The toxic chemicals have been used in hundreds of industrial applications but don’t break down easily and can migrate from soil to groundwater.

Originally called the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, 3M makes more than 60,000 products including adhesives, abrasives, passive fire protection, insulating materials, dental and medical products, and car-care products. The company made $35.4bn in 2021, and had operations in more than 70 countries.

In a company statement on Tuesday, the multinational said that it will discontinue manufacturing all fluoropolymers, fluorinated fluids, and PFAS-based additive products.

It also said that while it had already reduced use of PFAS over the past three years, the company will work to discontinue use of PFAS across its product portfolio.

3M said that the decision was based on “an evolving external landscape”.

In the European Union, there are plans in motion to potentially restrict all PFAS by 2025, and the US Environmental Protection Agency has indicated plans to place limits on PFAS in drinking water at current detection limits. There are similar regulations under consideration in Canada, Australia, and Asia, the company said.

Managing businesses and operations with products based on PFAS had increasingly weighed on the company’s business results in recent years, 3M said. They also noted that consumers are “increasingly interested in alternatives to PFAS”.

In September, a judge in Michigan gave tentative approval to a $54m settlement involving 3M, a shoe manufacturer and property owners in western Michigan who said their land and wells were contaminated by PFAS. The class-action deal involves approximately 1,700 properties north of Grand Rapids.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in 2017 against 3M and Wolverine Worldwide, a footwear company based in Rockford, Michigan.

PFAS were used to make Scotchgard, a 3M waterproofing product used by Wolverine, which has a number of brands, including Hush Puppies, Merrell, Keds, Saucony and Chaco.

And in July, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit seeking to force nearly 20 companies that he alleges contaminated the environment with chemicals known as PFAS to reimburse the state for investigations and cleanup efforts.

The lawsuit named 18 companies as defendants, including 3M Company, Tyco Fire Products LP, and BASF Corporation. The filing alleges the defendants knew or should have known that their products would have a dangerous impact on the public’s health and environment.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages as well as reimbursement for the costs of investigations, cleanup and remediation.

“To this day, the State continues to take necessary actions to protect its natural resources and its residents from harm caused by PFAS contamination,” the lawsuit states. “The State and its taxpayers will need to spend billions of dollars remediating the dangerous PFAS contamination caused by Defendants’ wrongful, deceptive and tortious conduct.”

AP contributed to this article


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