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3M says it will stop producing PFAS chemicals that have contaminated communities across New Hampshire

Pease Air National Guard tower
Dan Tuohy
/
NHPR
The substances have contaminated water supplies across New Hampshire, including on the former Pease Air Force base, where PFAS were used in firefighting foam.

The company 3M, which manufactures everything from Post-It notes to dental implants, has announced it will stop making PFAS — a group of man-made chemicals linked to a variety of health issues.

The move comes as federal regulators are preparing to place limits on the chemicals in drinking water. 3M cited that plan as a factor in its decision, along with increasing customer interest in alternatives to PFAS.

3M sued the state of New Hampshire over its limits on PFAS chemicals in drinking water in 2019.

PFAS chemicals have been used in a wide variety of products, like non-stick cookware and waterproof fabrics. They are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily in the environment. And they’ve contaminated water supplies across New Hampshire, including on the former Pease Air Force base, where PFAS were used in firefighting foam.

Andrea Amico founded Testing for Pease, a group that advocates for people impacted by PFAS, like her family. She says 3M’s announcement that they will stop production is a step in the right direction – but it falls short.

“I would really like to see companies like 3M take it further and pay to clean up these chemicals that aren't going to go away, reimburse the communities who have already footed the bill for filtration and remediation and blood testing and health studies,” she said.

Amico also said she’s paying attention to whether the company will truly stop making PFAS chemicals – or whether some substances that are harder to test for are left out.

“I think the devil is in the details here because PFAS is such a large class of chemicals,” she said. “I’m really curious as to how 3M defines PFAS and if they’re truly going to stop making all PFAS chemicals, or if it’s just a certain type of PFAS.”

The company did not respond to questions from NHPR about how they define PFAS chemicals, and whether newer replacements like GenX chemicals are included.

Laurene Allen, who started Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water to respond to water contamination from the Saint-Gobain manufacturing facility in her community, shared Amico’s concern about how the company defines PFAS and what they might replace it with.

Allen has long called for stopping PFAS at the source and says the announcement is a good start. But, she says, she’s looking for all the industries that make and use PFAS to follow suit.

“This is absolutely non-negotiable,” she said. “This is a crisis that faces our nation both for contamination and exposure in our bodies and in our homes. And it needs to stop. We need leadership.”

3M says they’ll stop manufacturing the chemicals by the end of 2025 and will “work to discontinue use of PFAS” across the company.

“PFAS continue to be essential for modern life and can be safely made and used. However, a strength of 3M has always been our focus on applying our science to improve lives and make the greatest impact for our stakeholders,” the company said in a press release.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.