As awareness about PFAS grows, more states and lawmakers are taking a closer look at the nature of these compounds and where they are present in the environment and people. Currently, there are no federal drinking water regulatory limits for PFAS compounds. What is in place is a federal, non-enforceable drinking water lifetime advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS. In the absence of federal regulatory limits, some states have set or have begun the process of setting their own limits based upon varying factors. Though approaches and assumptions vary, they are typically based on animal studies.
Existing drinking water advisory levels in many other countries are dramatically different from those of the U.S. EPA and individual states. For instance, Canada advises levels at 600 ppt and 200 ppt for PFOS and PFOA, respectively. Australia’s levels are 70 ppt and 560 ppt, and the United Kingdom recommends 300 ppt and 1,000 ppt for PFOS and PFOA. It is important to keep in mind that the levels in the United States do not establish the dividing lines between so called “safe” and “unsafe” levels of any PFAS. The levels are meant to consider a lifetime of drinking water consumption, and they are designed to provide a large margin of protection.
In February of 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented a PFAS Action Plan to determine whether a need exists to set enforceable drinking water limits for PFOA and PFOS.
3M supports the U.S. EPA’s creation of a PFAS Action Plan. We support regulation rooted in sound science and believe appropriate federal regulation will help prevent a patchwork of state standards that could increase confusion and uncertainty for communities. We believe the professional scientists at the U.S. EPA should base decisions on sound science and follow established regulatory processes to safeguard the integrity of the regulatory process. Moreover, they can and should act swiftly, which is why we support calls for a clearly-defined timeline for the U.S. EPA to publish its determination on an enforceable, national standard for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.
3M is committed to working with the U.S. EPA, state regulatory agencies, community groups and elected officials to support continued testing to give Americans confidence in their drinking water.
3M currently is defending lawsuits concerning various PFAS-related products and chemistries. We regularly update the status of our litigation cases in our quarterly SEC filings. 3M acted responsibly with our products containing PFAS, and we will vigorously defend our record of environmental stewardship. The weight of scientific evidence over decades of research does not show that PFOA or PFOS causes harm in people at current or past levels.
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.
While some research has indicated possible associations with certain biomarkers or health outcomes in people for PFOA and PFOS, results across studies examining these endpoints have found either inconsistent or conflicting observations and do not show causation. 3M and other leading experts around the world continue to research PFAS to look for potential health issues.