One of the nation’s leading industrial conglomerates is set to pay more than $10 billion — and potentially even more — over its role in the proliferation of “forever chemicals” in the nation’s waterways.
3M said it has reached an agreement to settle lawsuits from municipalities that have detected per- and polyfluorinated compounds, also known as PFAS. Those chemicals have been used for decades in fire- and grease-resistant coatings, including firefighting foam, nonstick cookware, and, famously, 3M’s Scotchgard material. But they also persist in the environment and the human body indefinitely — and are linked to a range of health problems.
The company is set to pay $10.3 billion over 13 years, pending court approval of the deal; should more communities find PFAS in the next three years under EPA-mandated testing, that amount could reportedly climb to as much as $12.5 billion. The payments will help fund filtering technology for PFAS-laden water, as well as additional testing.
3M officials called the deal an important step forward but noted that it did not admit liability. They also acknowledged that the ultimate costs of cleaning and filtering PFAS in the U.S. could grow far beyond what’s outlined in the settlement.
3M and DuPont were the leading manufacturers of PFAS, which was invented by DuPont as Teflon in the mid-20th century. That company and spinoffs Chemours and Corteva recently reached a settlement with some 300 water systems for nearly $1.2 billion.
The Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year proposed limits on two common types of “forever chemicals” and called for additional regulations on four more. 3M late last year announced plans to phase out its production of the substances by 2025.