3M, the conglomerate behind Post-It notes and duct tape, will stop making controversial per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by the end of 2025.
Commonly known as “forever chemicals,” the chemicals are found in hundreds of household items and are used to create coatings and products that repel water, grease, heat and oil. The latest scientific evidence suggests that these chemicals are far more dangerous to human health than scientists originally thought, and likely more dangerous at levels thousands of times lower than previously thought.
In a statement Tuesday, 3M said its decision was based “on careful consideration and a thorough assessment of the evolving external landscape,” and acknowledged that regulations are cracking down on the chemicals.
For example, earlier this year the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to label “Forever Chemicals” as hazardous substances. California also recently announced a lawsuit to recover PFAS cleaning costs.
“While PFAS are safe to manufacture and use, we also see an opportunity to provide leadership in a rapidly evolving external regulatory and business landscape to make the greatest impact on those we serve,” said Mike Roman, CEO from 3M, in a statement. “This action is another example of how we are positioning 3M for continued sustainable growth by optimizing our portfolio, innovating for our customers and delivering long-term value to our shareholders.”
The company expects financial losses of around US$1.3 billion to US$2.3 billion over the next few years as a result of the discontinuation of PFAS. Still, 3M (MMM) said PFAS accounts for a “small portion” of its sales.
In the last decade, chemical manufacturers have voluntarily stopped producing two of the most commonly used chemicals, including PFOS and PFOA.
At the federal level, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration phased out the use of certain PFAS chemicals in 2016. The FDA and manufacturers agreed in 2020 to phase out some PFAS chemicals from food packaging and other food contact items. However, FDA monitoring of the environment showed that the chemicals tend to linger.
– CNN’s Jen Christensen contributed to this report.