3M Knew its PFAS Chemicals were Toxic Decades Ago but Kept it Secret

We have previously published pieces about Big Chemical being aware that some of the chemicals making their profits rage into the billions of dollars were toxic and harmful to people, animals and the environment. Here is an investigative report revealing how 3M knew for decades that PFOS, one of the many PFAS* chemicals, used in their products like Scotchgard stain repellent and Teflon cookware, were likely highly toxic to their customers and everything else around them, but kept silent and said nothing to the public or the U.S. government…

Investigative Report Excerpt

“3M toxicologist Richard Purdy did a study in 1998 to see whether any of the company’s perfluorochemicals showed up in the blood of eagles and albatrosses.

That seemed unlikely, given the birds’ diet consists mostly of fish. So Purdy was surprised and disturbed when he found levels in their blood similar to those found in human blood. It even showed up in bald eagle nestlings whose only food was fish their parents fed them from remote lakes.

That indicated what Purdy later called “widespread environmental contamination” — the likelihood the manmade, toxic chemicals were moving through the food chain and accumulating in animals.

Purdy warned 3M that if wild birds’ blood contained the chemicals, then fish-eating mammals — like otters, mink, porpoise and seals — could have it, too. A study of rats found they had significant levels of a 3M chemical in their livers, likely from eating fishmeal. 

He told company officials in an email there was a significant risk of ecological harm, which should be reported to the EPA.

In response, 3M managers dispersed the team collecting the data, Purdy alleged.

Purdy resigned in 1999 and sent his resignation letter to the EPA, informing them that while 3M had disclosed to the EPA that a chemical called PFOS “had been found in the blood of animals,” it didn’t mention that it was found in the blood of eaglets.

The EPA began investigating the chemicals that year. But by then, 3M had reaped billions of dollars in profits from chemicals that the company had been warned were harming the environment and risking human health. 

The per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) had spread — through groundwater and products like Scotchgard stain repellent, Teflon cookware, food wrapping and fire retardant — and were showing up in the blood of people and animals in every corner of the world. They were in nearly every living thing, from house dust to human blood, in wildlife in the Arctic circle and drinking water, rivers, streams and breast milk.”

Continue reading HERE.


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On December 20, 2022, 3M announced it will stop manufacturing and using “forever chemicals” by the end of 2025 in part because of new proposed restrictions on all PFAS chemicals by the European Union and also because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to further regulate PFAS levels in drinking water systems**. 3M was one of the original companies that developed and manufactured per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as PFAS — in the U.S. (source)


*PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are toxic to humans, animals and the environment. They are comprised of approximately 12,000 compounds. They are ubiquitous in the U.S., appearing in thousands of consumer and industrial products and are typically used to make products resist water, stains and heat, including household products (like carpeting, curtains, furniture upholstery, waterproof and stain-resistant flooring, etc.), cooking supplies (including cooking utensils and bake ware), clothing, personal care products (like cosmetics, including waterproof mascara) and even food (PFAS appears in processed food packaging for humans and pets) and public drinking water (tap water) that affects an estimated 2 million Americans. PFAS chemicals are usually found in products labeled “stain-proof” and “waterproof”.  PFAS chemicals also appear in fire-fighting foam and other industrial products used at airports and military bases across the country, where the chemicals have leached into the groundwater. PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not readily break down in the environment or human body.  PFAS chemicals have been linked in scientific and medical studies to a variety of serious health conditions including cancer (including testicular cancers), kidney disease, heart disease, thyroid problems, reproductive problems, endocrine problems (PFAS has been found to disrupt hormonal functions with some research suggesting that the PFAS chemicals are linked to accelerated ovarian aging, period irregularities and ovarian disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome) and liver problems. Some newer PFAS have been found to accumulate in organs, so in some cases, science simply cannot detect the toxic chemicals when testing for it in blood.


**The EPA announced last year a “roadmap” for regulating PFAS chemicals and has since released a new health advisory for the chemicals in drinking water and designated two of the chemicals as hazardous.