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Continued: State's lawsuit against 3M over PFCs at crossroads

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 10, 2014 - 9:54 PM

There are other problems with the state’s allegations, Brewer said, adding that 3M has acted responsibly, spending about $100 million in remediation work in Cottage Grove, Oakdale, Woodbury and Lake Elmo. “We wouldn’t be involved in the case if we didn’t believe 3M was right,” he said.

Likewise, Gilbert said the state is hoping to get its case back on track because the impetus for bringing the suit hasn’t changed: to keep 3M’s feet to the fire to clean up PFCs. He added: “These compounds are going to have a direct effect on the state’s natural resources for a long period of time.”

Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039

Twitter: @StribJAnderson

  • related content

  • Alan Gilbert, state solicitor general, with Attorney General Lori Swanson. The case against 3M isn’t about money, he said. What regulators say about PFCs, B2.

  • William A. Brewer III

  • PFCs: what regulators say

    From the blood of native people in remote Greenland to bluegills caught in the Mississippi River, PFCs have been found in every corner of the globe.

    The chemical compounds developed by 3M Co. in the 1940s have been used in an array of consumer and manufactured goods, in part for their ability to resist grease and water. They are found in fast-food wrappers, milk cartons and household products with familiar names such as Teflon.

    It’s estimated that more than 98 percent of Americans have traces of the compounds in their bodies; PFCs endure in the environment for years. For those reasons they have been under intensive scrutiny by academics and government agencies, including:

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has never moved to ban PFCs. However, 3M Co. voluntarily stopped making PFCs in 2002, and the other chief manufacturer, DuPont Corp., is in the process of phasing them out. In October the EPA issued new rules requiring companies to report new uses of certain types of PFCs. The EPA’s Science Advisory Board has flagged PFOA, one of the most common PFC types, as a possible cause of cancer in people, and the agency is evaluating that information and research.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a recent biomonitoring report, notes that “human health effects from PFCs at low environmental doses or biomonitored levels from low environmental exposures are unknown.” In high-dose animal studies, however, several serious adverse effects are noted, such as liver tumors.

    The Minnesota Department of Health, in documents and in public statements, has not made a direct link between PFCs and adverse human health effects. However, five types of PFCs have come under the agency’s Contaminants of Emerging Concern Program, a proactive effort to monitor substances that have been found in the state’s drinking water, identify potential harmful health effects and determine what, if any, response is needed to protect the public. The agency has set health limits for PFCs in drinking water supplies and regularly monitors them. PFC levels among east metro residents who are monitored have been declining since 3M’s cleanup effort.

    Jim Anderson

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