3M, manufacturer of a wide range of products including sticky notes and safety masks, is the latest major company to join efforts to stop producing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Scientific studies have found that these so called “forever chemicals” do not break down naturally and can be harmful to humans and animals. According to the EPA, exposure to certain levels of PFAS is linked to infertility, some types of cancer, and interference with the body’s natural hormones, among other health issues.
PFAS have been found in water supplies, air, and soil across the country, and even in the blood of people and animals. They are used in the production of a wide array of consumer and industrial products, including water resistant clothing, paints, and some cosmetics.
But in recent years, a growing number of major companies, including Amazon, Patagonia, and McDonald’s have committed to either reducing or eliminating PFAS in their products. What’s more, the Biden administration has taken regulatory aim at PFAS. The EPA announced in October that it would set enforceable drink water limits on the amount of PFAS. This means that local water utilities will face penalties for failing to meet standards. The EPA is also requiring manufacturers to provide data about the compounds they produce and will deem some chemicals hazardous.