Read the full article by Michael Hawthorne (The Chicago Tribune)
“When 3M announced in 2000 it would stop making the chemical backbone of its Scotchgard stain repellent, executives at the global conglomerate vowed they were striving to become more environmentally friendly.
Scientists at the Minnesota-based company had found the Scotchgard compound accumulates in human blood and sticks around in the environment, 3M said at the time. So does a related chemical the company sold to DuPont to make Teflon, another widely used stain- and stick-resistant product used in cookware, clothing and other household goods.
3M and DuPont later introduced new formulas the companies said had none of the problems of the original ones. But behind the scenes their own studies showed the replacements are just as dangerous, if not more so, than the Scotchgard and Teflon chemicals 3M pioneered after World War II.
As the hazards became more widely understood, both companies have faced an avalanche of lawsuits targeting per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS or forever chemicals. Government regulators in the United States and Europe, who have allowed 3M and DuPont to make PFAS for decades with virtually no oversight, also began to take notice.
The pressure from trial lawyers, environmental agencies and shareholders built up to the point that on Tuesday 3M said it will stop making forever chemicals altogether within the next two years.
Lawyers and activists who have tangled with the company remain skeptical.
‘After telling everyone — their neighbors, their workers and their regulators — that PFAS are safe while poisoning the entire planet, 3M is now pledging to slink out the back door with no accountability,’ said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization that has studied forever chemicals and advocated for federal regulations since the early 2000s.
‘No one should trust 3M’s commitment to the do the right thing,’ Faber said. ‘They never have before.’
Once-secret 3M documents show top executives knew about the harmful effects of PFAS as early as the 1950s.” …