(NEW YORK) — 3M announced Thursday it has agreed to pay $10.3 billion in settlements in response to allegations in polluted water in towns and cities across the United States with toxic chemicals.
The company, which makes several consumer products, including Command strips, Scotch tape and Ace bandages, said the settlement would be paid over the course of 13 years after public water suppliers detected PFAS in drinking water.
PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are man-made chemicals that were first used in manufacturing in the 1940s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
These chemicals are omnipresent and can be found in several everyday items such as personal care products, food packaging, cleaning supplies and nonstick cookware, according to the agency.
PFAS can be found in soil, water and air and — because of their widespread use — are often found in the blood of people and animals, such as fish, the EPA said.
People can be exposed to PFAS by breathing in, eating, drinking or ingesting the chemicals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They can remain in the body for days or months and can potentially lead to increased cholesterol, liver damage, birth defects and a higher risk of kidney or testicular cancer, the CDC said.
Earlier this year, the EPA proposed the first-ever national standards on levels of PFAS found in drinking water to levels so low they cannot easily be detected.
3M has been the defendant in thousands of lawsuits over the past several years over claims it knew PFAS in its products could cause health issues, but continued to manufacture them anyway, resulting in a contaminated water supply.
The company said the settlement is not an admission of liability and that if the court does not approve the settlement agreement, it will defend itself in ongoing litigation.
“This is an important step forward for 3M, which builds on our actions that include our announced exit of PFOA and PFOS manufacturing more than 20 years ago, our more recent investments in state-of-the-art water filtration technology in our chemical manufacturing operations, and our announcement that we will exit all PFAS manufacturing by the end of 2025,” 3M chairman and CEO Mike Roman said in a statement.
In December 2022, 3M said it would stop manufacturing products with PFAS by the end of 2025.
3M’s settlement comes just a few weeks after three companies, Chemours, Corteva and DuPont, agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle claims that they also allegedly tainted drinking water with PFAS.
In the press release announcing that settlement agreement the companies said if the settlement is not approved, they “will continue to assert their strong legal defenses…deny the allegations in the underlying litigation and reserve all legal and factual defenses.”
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