3M heads to trial in ‘existential’ $143B forever-chemicals litigation

batmenace | 290 points

The chemicals in question are of type PFAS and believe it or not, they're still legal to use today, though they're being phased out and banned in a few years.

The problem is 3M scientists have know toxicity to human and have withheld the information to the public and regulators. Since 1970s.

pcurve | a year ago

So what, they'll pay a few million (even few billion) fine, and go back to doing it anyways. Having grown up as part of the "Maryvale Cancer Cluster" in Arizona in the 70's with DuPont dumping fluorine and other bad things into the well water and giving most of my family leukemia, cancer, and who knows what else. Class action ensued, DuPont lawyers fought it for 30 years, end of the day my dad got a check for $200 dollars. Thanks, sorry about that leukemia there...

bastard_op | a year ago

If the chemicals are bad, and everywhere, we need a reaction time faster than 50 years.

For new inventions (not well-known issues), it would be far better to be fast-reacting and no-fault rather than slow-reacting with vengeance.

Run studies as the use of the chemicals scales up and start raising warnings early so the company has time to collect more information and adapt formulas or applications. As the costs become apparent, start placing those costs on the companies ahead of time rather than 50 years later. That will sort out who really needs the new chemical, versus who just wants to spray it everywhere.

jeff-davis | a year ago

> Financial research firm CreditSights estimates that 3M could ultimately be on the hook for nationwide PFAS cleanup costs of up to $142.7 billion. That’s almost triple the company’s $53 billion market capitalization, and that’s before any personal injury claims and other lawsuits.

What does this actually mean? It's just showing off a big number without giving any real context. 3M is the only manufacturer of tons of important materials as I understand it, so it's not like they can just get erased from the market. But what does accountability actually mean in this context?

TheAceOfHearts | a year ago

Strange that we sue companies for selling products we haven't even bothered to ban yet. The idea that 3M "knew the whole time" is kooky when we aren't even sure now, 15 years after people started looking into this, whether we should ban them.

Scientists, regulators and legislatures should decide what the rules are and then hold companies accountable for actually breaking the rules.

joshe | a year ago

Johnson and Johnson tried to spin up a subsidiary and shift all the blame to it for including asbestos in talcum powder for decades. Thankfully, the courts saw through the move and made them pay billions of dollars too

omeysalvi | a year ago

3M is also in another lawsuit for defective earplugs supplied to the US military: https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/product-liability/3m-ea...

Additional info: https://www.millerandzois.com/products-liability/3m-combat-a...

rob-olmos | a year ago

I wonder what the role of this corporation has been in historically 'hiding away' (making the knowledge 'safe') the majority of "our" know-how around industrial scale chemistry?

I am curious about this because they did to chemistry what (? the nuclear bomb programmes?) did to physics?

This that I have seen happen against computer technology during my short time on earth so far (related: "war on general purpose computers").

...that for the sake of safety (you wouldn't want randos making TNT? then nuclear bomb... now computer malware or 'dangerous' AI tools?) a way is found to make knowledge inaccessible (for safety's sake)

on the level of reasoning i'm seeking, 3M is one of many examples of an older 'deeper' practice around knowledge, accessibility, government, organization-constructing, etc...

BSEdlMMldESB | a year ago

At these times, it's good to remember that PFAS will very likely kill more people than any terror attack so far. Among cancers, it is a known contributor to obesity and many other diseases.

We go to war over terror attacks. And for this, we probably won't even bankrupt 3M, nor DuPont.

To my mind, it brings into question what qualifies as terrorism. Is it not terrorism if many people die to push the stock price up when it's terrorism if many people die for some other selfish end?

clnq | a year ago

I always find the discrepancy between drugs and chemicals odd. Drugs require years of research to prove that they are safe, whereas chemicals can seemingly be put into the environment as long as they are not proven to cause harm, and even then in some cases, despite the effects of chemicals being released into the environment potentially causing very bad effects.

patapong | a year ago

I can't believe people do this just to make money. And it's not just this case, for example, our food supply is filled with stuff that is really bad for us, barely passes as edible, and is even sold as a healthy alternative in a lot of cases. For example, vegetable oils and cooking with vegetable oils and the growing evidence behind how bad they are, they extremely highly processed and in some cases not even an edible product until the last refinement step.

We're out own worst enemies and greed is so often the issue.

pleb_nz | a year ago

In the future there will be a $200 trillion dollar lawsuit against tire manufacturers and brake disc manufacturers once people learn about those

orangepurple | a year ago

The issue is 3M has moved to stop using forever chemicals. Destroying 3M could mean companies that continue manufacturing the chemicals win out.

It'd be better if 3M received a penalty (severe but manageable over time) and mandate to set a higher bar for industry practices (or risk further consequences).

Govt is far too slow to regulate.

thevagrant | a year ago

Prozac, Lipitor, Flonase and about of third of new pharmaceuticals are PFAS. Humans can figure out how to use this technology. Destroying 3M just means it gets made in China with no oversight.

Lawyers will win in the end regardless of what happens.

mensetmanusman | a year ago

put a fuckin CEO in jail for once

greenie_beans | a year ago
| a year ago

Is this similar to “C8” / DuPont?

tiffanyh | a year ago

The most depressing part of this? Stopping the creation of PFAS might help out kids or grandkids, but we're kind of screwed. Well, unless you give blood a lot?

xen2xen1 | a year ago