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3M’s “Forever Chemicals”

David Finster
Alert Human

According to the detailed story at ProPublica, 3M has known about the dangers of PFAS chemicals since the 1970s. They have hidden the information from the public and regulators for decades. The company continues to produce and use them, putting profits over public health and environmental safety.

The consequences of 3M’s actions are devastating. PFAS contamination is now detected in water supplies, soil, and living organisms worldwide.

From the article:

“When you have a contaminated site, you can clean it up,” Elsie Sunderland, an environmental chemist at Harvard University, told me. “When you ubiquitously introduce a toxicant at a global scale, so that it’s detectable in everyone ... we’re reducing public health on an incredibly large scale.”

Nearly half of U.S. tap water is estimated to contain PFAS chemicals. The chemicals are linked to a range of health problems, including cancer, immune system disorders, and developmental issues. They are also known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment. They bind to proteins in the body and accumulate over time.

Jim Johnson, a senior 3M scientist, admitted to the cover-up. He also said that he would be of little help if asked to testify in court.

Reporter Sharon Lerner quotes Johnson in the article:

“I’m an old man, and so I think they would find that I got extremely forgetful all of a sudden,” he said, and chuckled.

3M still produces PFAS chemicals that contaminate the environment. It's possible they may never stop. Although 3M has said they would stop making PFAS chemicals by the end of 2025, they admit in regulatory filings that a full phaseout may not happen.

The company has not admitted wrong­doing or faced criminal liability for their actions.

My short blog post cannot do justice to the full story. I encourage you to read the ProPublica article for more details.