Energy & Environment

3M will phase out its ‘forever chemical’ production by 2025

Industrial giant 3M will stop manufacturing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and discontinue the use of these so-called forever chemicals by the end of 2025, the company announced Tuesday.

By that deadline, 3M pledged to stop producing all fluoropolymers and fluorinated fluids — types of PFAS products, typically used as coatings that resist grease or water — as well as PFAS-based additive items.

The company also said it would strive to end the use of PFAS across its product portfolio by that same date, adding that significant steps to decrease the use of these substances have already occurred over the past three years. 

Known for their propensity to linger in the human body and in water and land resources, PFAS are a class of thousands of compounds that don’t occur naturally in the environment. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to a long list of illnesses, including testicular cancer, thyroid disease and kidney cancer.

These substances have been produced for decades and are common in many household products, such as nonstick pans, waterproof apparel and cosmetics. They are also notorious for their presence in jet fuel firefighting foam and industrial discharge.

3M was among the early purveyors of PFAS, compounds whose history dates back to military usage in the atom bomb during World War II. 

The company said Tuesday that its decision to phase out the production of PFAS was “based on careful consideration and a thorough evaluation of the evolving external landscape.” 

Some such factors in that landscape included “accelerating regulatory trends” that have focused on reducing the presence of PFAS in the environment, as well as stakeholder expectations, according to 3M.

The announcement also comes amid a variety of lawsuits against 3M and other PFAS manufacturers, as well as regulatory pressures on these companies to make changes. 

3M’s current annual net sales of manufactured PFAS are about $1.3 billion, according to the company. Over the course of the exit, 3M said it expects to incur related total pre-tax charges of between $1.3 billion and $2.3 billion.

While 3M Chairman and CEO Mike Roman claimed in a statement that “PFAS can be safely made and used,” he said that the company sees “an opportunity to lead in a rapidly evolving external regulatory and business landscape.”

Doing so, he added, can “make the greatest impact for those we serve” and position “3M for continued sustainable growth.”

Tags 3M 3M Co. Forever chemicals Mike Roman PFAS

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