Read the full article by Chloe Johnson (The Seattle Times)

“3M announced in mid-December that it’s phasing out a family of harmful chemicals, but they’re not going away.

The ‘forever chemicals,’ known collectively as per- and polyfluorinated substances or PFAS, are used in everything from carpeting to nonstick pans to dental floss. The chains of carbon-fluorine bonds are excellent at repelling stains, grease and water, and even snuffing out dangerous fuel fires. But they also don’t break down in the environment, and they linger in people’s bodies for years.

Research has linked the chemicals to developmental and immune problems, fertility issues and some cancers.

Maplewood-based 3M, which is facing a cascade of lawsuits over the PFAS it helped pioneer in the last century, said it would stop making and using them by 2025, including at its plant in Cottage Grove.

In the view of Rainer Lohmann, director of the University of Rhode Island’s STEEP lab and an authority on PFAS contamination: ‘The nightmare hasn’t really stopped.’

Researchers and environmental advocates said the persistence and global scope of the pollution from the chemicals will pose a cleanup challenge for years to come. They also worried new manufacturers could step in to fill a gap left by 3M, and they said the company should contribute to environmental cleanup.

‘While it is great that they are moving away from these chemicals finally, after pressure, after liability, after pressure from government regulators … they certainly should not be left off the hook for accountability,’ said Melanie Benesh, vice president for government affairs with the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization.

3M has already been engaged in cleanup efforts in connection with legal cases and environmental enforcement. It paid the state of Minnesota $850 million to settle a lawsuit over natural resource damages in 2018, and before that it had to excavate contaminated material from several dumps used by its chemical plant in the east metro. The company also entered into a consent agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency this November to test and treat drinking water in a 10-mile area around its chemical plant in Cordova, Illinois.

It also faces continuing scrutiny around its Cottage Grove plant, where there’s an open investigation into its water discharges by the EPA and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 3M first revealed the investigation to investors in 2020.” …