3M remains committed to furthering scientific research of these compounds and sharing such information with regulators, scientists and community stakeholders. 3M has contributed significantly to the body of knowledge on some PFAS compounds. Our scientists and researchers are some of the most widely published experts in the field, and they are often sought out to lead panels or present at international conferences relating to these compounds. In addition to funding studies at leading global research institutions, 3M has conducted and published more than 150 of its own studies over the past several decades.
The weight of scientific evidence from decades of research does not show that PFOS or PFOA causes harm in people at current or past levels. Many of these studies involved the monitoring and evaluation of our employees who were exposed to substantially higher levels of these materials than the general population. The health and well-being of our workers is a top priority and we continue to have programs in place to monitor the health of our PFAS production employees and retirees. Decades of research into the health of these workers has not identified negative health outcomes caused by exposure to PFOA or PFOS (Raleigh et al., 2014, and Olsen et al., 2007).
For example, the PFAS Expert Health Panel formed by the Australian government determined in its March 2018 report that, “there is mostly limited or no evidence for any link with human disease” and “there is no current evidence that supports a large impact on an individual’s health.” They also report that “there is no current evidence that suggests an increase in overall cancer risk.”
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), in its 2018 draft report on PFAS, said, “The available human studies have identified some potential targets of toxicity; however, cause and effect relationships have not been established for any of the effects, and the effects have not been consistently found in all studies.”
The Michigan Science Advisory Panel said that “[C]ausality between a PFAS-chemical and a specific health outcome in humans has not been established in the current scientific literature.”
It is important to know that while some studies may find links or associations with possible health outcomes, this is not the same as causation. The weight of scientific evidence does not show that PFOS or PFOA causes harm to people at current or historical levels.
Although PFAS have been detected in the environment at extremely low levels, their mere presence does not mean they are harmful. Research has also shown that the levels of PFOS and PFOA in the general population have dropped by more than 70 percent since 2000.
The levels of PFOA and PFOS in people are declining. Reduced exposure to these materials is evidenced in a series of studies that have occurred over the past 15 years involving the measurement of these compounds in the blood of the U.S. general population.
Although it has been widely reported that no causal connection has been identified between exposure to PFOS or PFOA and harm to people’s health, there is a great deal of misinformation in the public domain.
PFAS stands for a broad group of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The group contains several categories and classes of durable chemicals and materials with properties that included oil, water, temperature, chemical and fire resistance, as well as electrical insulating properties.
Processes to commercially produce PFAS were first developed in the 1940s. In the 1950s, 3M began manufacturing PFOA and PFOS, two types of PFAS, for product applications because of their ability to repel water, protect surfaces, resist heat and many other useful properties.