Industrial conglomerate 3M is getting out of the business of making "forever chemicals," which are linked to higher rates of cancer, reproductive problems, and other health effects.
The company on Tuesday said it will discontinue the use of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by the end of 2025. The chemicals are used to create water- and heat-resistant coatings, among other applications, for products such as nonstick cookware and semiconductors.
The chemicals notoriously take a long time to break down and can accumulate in the body.
The DuPont company pioneered the use of PFAS in consumer goods with the creation of Teflon cookware back in the 1940s. This later led to a nationwide scandal when the chemical was found in dangerous concentrations in the water near a DuPont plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and a class action lawsuit determined that the company was aware that it was harmful. The 2019 film Dark Water starring Mark Ruffalo dramatized the incident.
"This is a moment that demands the kind of innovation 3M is known for," said 3M Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mike Roman. "While PFAS can be safely made and used, we also see an opportunity to lead in a rapidly evolving external regulatory and business landscape to make the greatest impact for those we serve. 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 for our shareholders."
The chemicals were previously used in 3M's Scotchgard, a stain and water repellant, but the product was reformulated following the backlash over the PFAS.
3M, along with DuPont, was sued recently by the California attorney general to cover the cost of cleaning up concentrations of PFAS in the soil and water across the state.
The company added that it has already made some progress over the past three years replacing PFAS from its product portfolio. The changes are not expected to impact profitability.