PFAS: 3M reaches nearly $10.3 billion settlement in 'forever chemical' drinking water lawsuits - Tradewinds Water Filtration

PFAS: 3M reaches nearly $10.3 billion settlement in 'forever chemical' drinking water lawsuits

3M has reached an agreement to settle lawsuits claiming toxic “forever chemicals” contaminated water supplies in the U.S.

Under the settlement terms, the company agreed to pay up to $10.3 billion over a 13-year period to public water suppliers (PWS) that have detected the substances in drinking water across the nation, 3M said in a statement released Thursday.

3M is among the world's largest manufacturers of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

Also called "forever chemicals" the substances stay in the environment long after their intended use and have been associated with long-term illnesses including cancer and other health problems. They are praised by some for their use in nonstick cookware and waterproof or stain-resistant products. Other fear them for their potential toxicity.

Their use has led to lawsuits by towns and cities across the U.S. seeking funds to purify water. Firefighters and other first responders who believe the chemicals impacted their health have also filed suits.

"This is an important step forward for 3M, which builds on our actions that include our announced exit of PFOA and PFOS manufacturing more than 20 years ago, our more recent investments in state-of-the-art water filtration technology in our chemical manufacturing operations," 3M chairman and CEO Mike Roman said in the statement released by the company.

Roman said the company plans to "exit all PFAS manufacturing by the end of 2025."

What products contain PFAS?

Found in clothing, rainwear, furniture, outdoor equipment, tape, and cosmetics, PFAS are also often used in food packaging including pizza boxes and fast-food wrappers to minimize grease from leaking.

They are also used in electronics, medical equipment and some renewable technologies. The military has used them in foams to help douse fires that involve oil.

3M boasts PFAS "can be safely made and used and are critical in the manufacture of many products that are important for modern life, including medical technologies, semiconductors, batteries, phones, automobiles, and airplanes."

What are PFAS?A guide to understanding chemicals behind nonstick pans, cancer fears

3M 'acted responsibly'

3M has previously said the company "acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS" and would "vigorously defend its environmental stewardship."

In its statement regarding the settlement, the company said the agreement was not an admission of liability.

"If the agreement is not approved by the court or certain agreed terms are not fulfilled, 3M is prepared to continue to defend itself in the litigation," the statement said. "3M also will continue to address other PFAS litigation by defending itself in court or through negotiated resolutions, all as appropriate."

Here's what the settlement does, according to 3M:

  • Provides funding for PWS across the country for PFAS treatment technologies without the need for further litigation.
  • Provides funding for eligible PWS that may detect PFAS in the future.
  • Resolves current and future drinking water claims by PWS related to PFAS, including those that are included as a portion of the Aqueous Film Forming Foam multi-district litigation based in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Provides funding for PWS nationwide to conduct testing for PFAS.

Forever chemical regulations:EPA's new drinking water regulations would limit 'forever chemicals' to lowest detected levels

How many people are impacted by PFSAs?

Research shows 99% of Americans have PFAS in their bodies. A report released by the Environmental Working Group in February also found more than 120 different forever chemicals were found in the bodies of birds, bears, tigers, horses, cats, and other mammals.

Health experts say they are particularly concerned with chemicals that display these two characteristics: those that are bioaccumulative, meaning they build up in living tissue, and those that are toxic, which means they harm living organisms, like plants, animals and humans. 

Research is ongoing about what PFAS do to affect people's health but, in addition to cancer, weakened childhood immunity, low birth rates, thyroid disease have been connected to the substances.

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed limiting the amount of “forever chemicals” in drinking water to the lowest level tests can detect −a long-awaited protection the federal agency said will save thousands of lives and prevent serious illnesses.

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