3M coughs up $10.3b to settle "forever chemicals" lawsuits

Manufacturing conglomerate 3M will pay $10.3bn to settle lawsuits accusing it of selling toxic "forever chemicals" while hiding knowledge of their dangers. The products polluted water systems across the U.S. and the settlement is the largest related to water safety in U.S. history.

The company said the settlement would provide the funds over a 13-year period to cities, towns and other public water systems to test for and treat contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. 3M, which is facing thousands of lawsuits over PFAS contamination, did not admit liability, and said the money will help support remediation at public water systems that detect PFAS "at any level".

The sheer number of different lawsuits, more than 4,000, reflected the variety of problem products marketed by 3M and their wide use. Firefighting foams was but one example. PFAS contamination may lead to cancer, hormonal dysfunction and environmental damage, and growing awareness of the problem has led to the Environmental Protection Agency to impose limits on their presence in drinking water.

DuPont and Corteva are among other chemical companies sued over PFAS contamination by the same water authorities, and came to similar settlements earlier this month.