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Monday, 23 January 2023 10:12

Multinational manufacturer 3M to cease making 'forever chemicals' PFAS

3M has announced it will exit the manufacturing of widely used 'forever chemicals' Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and attempt to discontinue the use of PFAS across its product portfolio by the end of 2025. 

'Forever Chemicals' is a term used for PFAS. Exposure to PFAS increases the risk of cancer, harms the development of the foetus and reduces the effectiveness of vaccines. For instance biomonitoring studies by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the blood of nearly all Americans is contaminated with PFAS.

3M St Paul Monument place001 rgbAs a result of the announcement 3M will discontinue manufacturing all fluoropolymers, fluorinated fluids, and PFAS-based additive products. 3M intends to fulfill current contractual obligations during the transition period.

The company have already reduced their use of PFAS over the past three years through ongoing research and development and will continue to initiate new solutions for customers.

The European Union has indicated plans to potentially restrict all PFAS by 2025. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has indicated plans to place limits on PFAS in drinking water at current detection limits. Regulatory agencies elsewhere, including in Canada, Australia, and Asia, are increasingly active on this topic. Customers and consumers are increasingly interested in alternatives to PFAS.

3M state the challenges of managing businesses and operations with products based on PFAS, have increasingly weighed on their business results in recent years.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: PFAS are a large, complex group of manufactured chemicals that are ingredients in various everyday products. For example, they are used to keep food from sticking to packaging or cookware, make clothes and carpets resistant to stains, and create firefighting foam that is more effective. PFAS are used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, construction, and electronics.

PFAS molecules have a chain of linked carbon and fluorine atoms. Because the carbon-fluorine bond is one of the strongest, these chemicals do not degrade easily in the environment.

How Are People Exposed to PFAS?
Human exposure to PFAS is widespread but variable by geography and occupation. These manmade chemicals have leached into our soil, air, and water. People are most likely exposed to these chemicals by consuming PFAS-contaminated water or food, using products made with PFAS, or breathing air containing PFAS. Assessments of human exposure are in progress.

One report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found PFAS in the blood of 97% of Americans. Another NHANES report suggested blood levels of PFOS and PFOA in people have been reduced since those chemicals were removed from consumer products in the early 2000s. However, new PFAS chemicals have been created and exposure to them is difficult to assess.