Corporate chemical giant 3M is waging a campaign to avoid paying billions of dollars in damages from toxic pollution linked to two of its chemicals. These nonstick and water repellent chemicals have created a contamination crisis, poisoning the drinking water of 1,500 communities and affecting millions of people. 3M has has a plant location in Decatur, Alabama on the Tennessee River. The plant makes a chemical there that has contaminated the water source for 4.7 million people.
Part of 3M’s campaign to dodge responsibility is using an advocacy group to argue the chemicals don’t pose a health risk. The industry group’s effort to raise doubts about the science are frighteningly similar to the tobacco industry’s playbook. Another tactic 3M is deploying is funding political campaigns. They’ve poured money into campaigns for attorney general candidates in Michigan, Ohio, California and Alabama.
3M has previously reached an $850 million settlement with Minnesota for the damage the company caused to the state’s drinking water. New York followed suit with a lawsuit of their own and Michigan is pursuing litigation, on top of dozens of personal injury and class-action lawsuits against the company across the country. Altogether, the company could end up owing tens of billions of dollars.
The chemicals ‘PFOA’ and ‘PFOS’ have been used for decades in many familiar products; 3M’s signature Scotchgard, Teflon, Stainmaster. These chemicals are found in house cleaners and fire retardants on furniture. The chemicals, nicknamed “forever chemicals,” take years to breakdown in the environment. They accumulate in the body, and are linked to kidney cancer and testicular cancer, immune disorders and other ailments. The chemicals have been found in more than 99 percent of Americans’ blood.